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Why are sex and jewelry, particularly rings, so often connected? Why do rings keep getting into stories about marriage and adultery, love and betrayal, loss and recovery, identity and masquerade? What is the mythology that makes finger rings symbols of true (or, as the case may be, untrue) love?
The cross-cultural distribution of the mythology of sexual rings is impressive--from ancient India and Greece through the Arab world to Shakespeare, Marie Antoinette, Wagner, nineteenth-century novels, Hollywood, and the De Beers advertising campaign that gave us the expression, "Diamonds Are Forever." Each chapter of The Ring of Truth, like a separate charm on a charm bracelet, considers a different constellation of stories: stories about rings lost and found in fish; forgetful husbands and clever wives; treacherous royal necklaces; fake jewelry and real women; modern women's revolt against the hegemony of jewelry; and the clash between common sense and conventional narratives about rings. There are signet rings, betrothal rings, and magic rings of invisibility and/or memory. The stories are linked through a common cluster of meanings, such as love symbolized by the circular and unbroken shape of the ring: infinite, constant, eternal--a meaning that the stories often prove tragically false.
While most of the rings in the stories originally belonged to a man, or were given to a woman by a man, Wendy Doniger shows that it is the women who are important in these stories, as they are the ones who put the jewelry to work in the plots.
Wendy Doniger is the Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions at the University of Chicago and the author of over 40 books, including On Hinduism and Redeeming the Kamasutra.
Table of Contents
Preface: My Family Jewels, and Other Tall Tales Introduction: The Signifying Ring Acknowledgments Chapter 1: Marriage Rings (and Adultery Rings) Rings in History The Meaning of Rings The Signet Ring The Ring on Her Finger The Sexual Ring Hans Carvel's Ring The Vagina Monologues The Rings of Wives and Courtesans
Chapter 2: The Ring Fished from the Ocean The Story in the Fish Solomon's Ring Polycrates' Ring The Bishop of Glasgow's Salmon The (Not-So) Fortunate Farmer's Daughter The Child and the Ring in the Water The Family Romance The Pope's Ring and the Fish Rings of Incest Cinderella's Ring Cinderella's Fish Shakespeare's Rings I: The Lost Child Pericles The Winter'sTale The Ring (and Child) in the Fish in the News The Token Rings of Lost Children
Chapter 3: Shakuntala and the Ring of Memory Rings in Ancient India Sita's Jewels Ratnavali, the Lady with the Necklace The Rejection of Shakuntala The Ring of the Bodhisattva The Recognition of Shakuntala The Return of the Repressed The Lost and Found of Rings
Chapter 4: Rings of Forgetfulness in Medieval European Romances The Man who Forgot his Wife when he Lost his Ring Yvain, The Knight of the Lion, and the Lady of the Fountain Lancelot and Guinevere Tristan and Isolde The Ring on the Statue Shakespeare's Rings II: The Lying Ring Cymbeline The Merchant of Venice
Chapter 5: Siegfried's Ring and Wagner's Ring The Man who Lost his Ring when he Forgot his Wife Siegfried and Brünnhilde Stage One: Thidreks Saga Stage Two: Völsunga Saga Stage Three: Nibelungenlied Stage Four: Ibsen's The Vikings at Helgeland Stage Five: Wagner's The Ring of the Nibelung The Twilight of the Ring Wieland the Smith The Rehabilitation of Cads The Alibi Ring: Oxytocin
Chapter 6: Pregnant Riddles and Clever Wives The Man Who Wouldn't Sleep with his Wife Until She had Borne Him a Son Muladeva and the Brahmin's Daughter Other Indian Variants Tamar and Judah The Clever Wife in the Decameron Shakespeare's Rings III: The Riddle of the Ring All's Well That Ends Well Is All Well That Ends Well?
Chapter 7: The Rape of the Clever Wife Rape and Rejection Rape in Menander and Terence The Dream Ring How Budur Almost Raped her Husband Qamar The Vizier's Daughter Parental Imprinting and Uncertain Fathers
Chapter 8: The Affair of the Diamond Necklace Marie Antoinette and the Scene in the Bower The Official Trial Trial by Libel Alexandre Dumas Fact and Fiction Beaumarchais and The Marriage of Figaro The Ghosts of Versailles Asimov's Norbyand the Queen's Necklace
Chapter 9: The Slut Assumption in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries Chains in Mansfield Park Jewry and Jewelry in Daniel Deronda The "Memorial" Turquoise Necklace The "Poisonous" Diamond Necklace The "Memorable" Ring of Lost Fathers Guy de Maupassant and Henry James W. Somerset Maugham and China Seas Twentieth Century Films Random Harvest Vertigo (and Gaslight) The Earrings of Madame de Real Jewelry and False Women
Chapter 10: Are Diamonds A Woman's Best Friend? The Symbolic Baggage of Baguettes Who Said, "Forever"? Anita Loos, Leo Robin, De Beers, and N. W. Ayer The Divorce Ring and the Apology Ring The Anti-Myth: Diabolical Diamonds Take Back Your Ring: The Legal View Hard Values The Rebellion of Twenty-First Century Women The Ties that Bind
Chapter 11: Two Conclusions, on Money and Myth I Money: The Lap of Luxury II Myth: Recognition, Rings, Reason and Rationality The Recognition of Myth and the Myth of Recognition Repetition and Originality The Colluding Audience The Ring to the Rescue Sexing Texts Reason and Rationality The Ring Runs Rings Around Reason Rationing Rationality The Triumph of Myth over Reason