Embodied: Victorian Literature and the Senses by William A. Cohen

By William A. Cohen

What does it suggest to be human? British writers within the Victorian interval came upon a shocking solution to this question. what's human, they found, is not anything kind of than the human physique itself. In literature of the interval, in addition to in clinical writing and journalism, the suggestion of an inside human essence got here to be pointed out with the cloth life of the physique. The organs of sensory belief have been understood as the most important routes of trade among the internal and the exterior worlds.

Anatomizing Victorian principles of the human, William A. Cohen considers the which means of sensory encounters in works by means of writers together with Charles Dickens, Charlotte Brontë, Anthony Trollope, Thomas Hardy, and Gerard Manley Hopkins. instead of concerning the physically external because the basic place during which id categories—such as gender, sexuality, race, and disability—are expressed, he specializes in the inner event of sensation, wherein those politics end up felt.

In those dependent engagements with literary works, cultural historical past, and significant idea, Cohen advances a phenomenological method of embodiment, providing that we come across the area now not via our minds or souls yet via our senses

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33 With this conception of the world outside the subject as itself contingent on the subject’s perception of it, Merleau-Ponty suggests that the subject mingles with the world through processes of sensory apprehension, entering into and being entered by it reciprocally. ”34 Because Merleau-Ponty posits that knowing and feeling are embodied, physical processes, the corporeal subject itself comes to be an object. In the influential posthumous essay “The Intertwining — the Chiasm,” Merleau-Ponty is not far from the Victorian physiological psychologists: “We say.

Brontë in particular— precisely because she seeks to de-emphasize the perceived deficiencies of her sex — makes the physical inhabitation of the interior more salient than any given body’s gender. Although the figural techniques these authors employ for portraying the embodiment of subjectivity are similar, Dickens uses a material conception of the interior as a means of comically, often exuberantly, opening the self to the world— particularly to other embodied selves, in relations of desire and antipathy.

42 The pineal eye is connected to the transcendent power of the visible, blinding sun, but it is also directly linked to the anus, to the shit-smeared and sex-focused existence that Bataille (in the mode of primitive anthropologist) always sees subtending human civilization. Bataille reflects on these ideas in the article “The Jesuve,” which offers an explanation, in terms of evolutionary anthropology, for civilization’s sublimation of the anus and hence his own celebration of it. With Bataille’s frequent emphasis on erection, his human being may seem decidedly masculine, but it is also at points crucially invaginating.

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