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The Professor in the Cage: Why Men Fight and Why We Like to Watch Paperback – March 15, 2016
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Publishers Weekly (starred review):
With humor, literary allusions, and a casual, unprepossessing style, Gottschall explores such related subjects as duels, bullying, English football, men’s “love-hate” relationship to war, and violent entertainment from gladiator games to MMA."
Joe Rogan, UFC Commentator
"A fascinating story...A great f***ing book."
"The Professor in the Cage [is] a riveting first-person account to the three years that the 40ish, physically unimposing English teacher trained to become an MMA fighter."
“The Professor in the Cage is not just Gottschall's story, but a look at the history of violence itself…. you read Gottschall getting smarter and smarter about his subject as he gets closer and closer to risking his life in the cage.”
Boston Globe, Best Books of 2015
"An out-of-shape English professor in a funk and on the brink of middle age leaves his office, walks across the street to a mixed martial arts gym to train, gets clobbered, does some clobbering, and learns a lot"
"Like Fight Club but for English Professors....When Gottschall finally enters a cage in Johnstown, PA, exhilaration, pain and confusion spatter all over the mat. I won't give away the outcome, except to say that the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat both make cameos."
Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University; and author of How the Mind Works and The Better Angels of Our Nature:
“What a charming and illuminating book! With scientific acumen and literary panache, Gottschall immerses himself, and us, in an ancient part of the male psyche. Among the many treats in this book are the history of recreational fighting, a limpid explanation of sexual selection, and a sympathetic portrayal of working-class men that’s worthy of a great novelist.”
Sam Harris, author of the New York Times bestsellers The End of Faith, The Moral Landscape, and Waking Up:
“Jonathan Gottschall has written a wonderfully honest, entertaining, and insightful book about violence, manhood, courage, and the wisdom that can be gleaned from getting punched in the face. If you’ve ever wondered why combat is a perennial source of fascination for us, and whether this fascination can be channeled toward truly productive ends, The Professor in the Cage is the book to read.”
The Art of Manliness, Best Books of 2015
"One of the best books I've read this year, and one of the best books on masculinity I've read...A fascinating and provocative argument...A great story."
The National Post, Best Books of 2015
English professor turned cage fighter Gottschall walks us through the psychology of violence in this fascinating mix of science, literature, and memoir.
Bryan Callen, co-host of The Fighter and the Kid podcast
"I read the f**k out of The Professor in the Cage! I found it fascinating because it's something I'm actually obsessed with: Why do men behave the way they do? Why do I behave the way I do?"
“Gottschall’s writing proves much smoother and easier to digest than the mayhem he undertakes in the cage. He buttresses his work, as all academics do, with 35 pages of endnotes and bibliography, attesting to the research he undertook to complement his road to the ring. The reader learns why animals fight, why women don’t, and why eye contact and facial expressions often win bouts before the bell rings.”
The Writer File
“An amazing story… Incredibly compelling, and a lot of fun."
About the Author
Jonathan Gottschall is a distinguished research fellow in the English Department at Washington & Jefferson College. His research has been covered in the New York Times Magazine, the New York Times, Scientific American, the New Yorker, the Atlantic, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and on NPR. His blog, The Storytelling Animal, is featured at Psychology Today. His book, The Storytelling Animal, was a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice selection and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.
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Top Customer Reviews
The author was nearing 40, stuck in a dead-end position as an adjunct at a college with little to no hope of landing a tenure-track position, when a mixed martial arts studio opened up across the street. Facing something of a mid-life crisis, he decided to train toward a real MMA fight and to write a book about the experience. The book ended up being a bit different than what he had expected, because the MMA training experience wasn't what he expected.
As other reviewers have noted, this book probably wouldn't have worked very well as a pure memoir. The way that Gottschall doles out bits and pieces of his own experience with discussions of the history of dueling, studies on innate gender preferences for competitive versus cooperative play, and other relevant factors, makes for fascinating reading.
Finally, it's worth noting that I've never watched a complete MMA fight and have only seen a few highlights on Sports Center. I haven't watched much boxing, either, just - of all matches to pick - the Buster Douglas-Mike Tyson bout, and only then because my roommate had HBO and the fight was free. Yet, despite my general lack of interest in competitive fighting (as opposed to action movies and TV shows, which I love), I was utterly enthralled by this book.
Ladies, read this to understand "guyness". I am a married woman. I found myself reading passages out loud to my gentle, Spanish teacher husband only to have him smile knowingly and then tell me about why he joined the wrestling team (he was the 70 pound freshman) and about how treat it was to play army with his brothers.
Gentlemen, read this to understand how some things in our culture may be repressing your "guyness" and that it is ok!
Highly recommended to parents of boys!
A great book club selection for men or women or a mixed group. The author is challenging current ideas about masculinity and femininity, child-rearing, the meaning of male violence. It will spark a lot of good discussion and dare I say, verbal battles!
I'm the mother looking at everything from the point of the pain and hurt caused, men see it from a different perspective. Mr. Gottschall has spent a lot of time (and sweat) looking into this phenomenon as it has happened in history as well as why there are big differences in how genders perceive this. And just why do men fight? All is explained, at least from his perspective and research. It's a tough read at times (I get the same cringe feeling even if I'm not watching the events) but well worth it, for men and women.