Peter Toohey’s new book, Jealousy, puts it at the center of our emotional lives. Musing over his arguments, Diane Johnson runs down the many ways it’s informed art, especially in the last few centuries:
Toohey tells us that beginning in the late nineteenth century, painting and literature would see an “explosion” of treatments of the subject, with obsessively jealous characters like Tolstoy’s Pozdnyshev in The Kreutzer Sonata, or, later, Dickens’s Bradley Headstone—the reader will think of dozens of instances—Emma, or la cousine Bette, or the hero of Trollope’s He Knew He Was Right, who dies of it, or Così Fan Tutte, much of Verdi, “Frankie and Johnny”—jealousy is all over the place.
In painting and sculpture there’s a whole iconography of jealousy—ears, husbands listening behind doors, cats with their big green eyes, the color yellow. As the twentieth century approaches, artists begin reaching for means…
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