The Culture of the Body: Genealogies of Modernity



 What is the body? How was it culturally constructed, conceived, and cultivated before and after the advent of rationalism and modern science? This interdisciplinary study elaborates a cultural genealogy of the body and its legacies to modernity by tracing its crucial redefinition from a live anatomical entity to disembodied, mechanical and virtual analogs.

The study ranges from Baroque, pre-Cartesian interpretations of body and embodiment, to the Cartesian elaboration of ontological difference and mind-body dualism, and it concludes with the parodic and violent aftermath of this legacy to the French Enlightenment. It engages work by philosophical authors such as Montaigne, Descartes and La Mettrie, as well as literary works by d'Urfé, Corneille and the Marquis de Sade. The examination of sexuality and the emergence of sexual difference as a dominant mode of embodiment are central to the book's overall design. 

The work is informed by philosophical accounts of the body (Nietzsche, Foucault, Merleau-Ponty), by feminist theory (Butler, Irigaray, Bordo), as well as by literary and cultural historians (Scarry, Stewart, Bynum, etc.) and historians of science (Canguilhem, Pagel, and Temkin), among others. It will appeal to scholars of literature, philosophy, French studies, critical theory, feminist theory, cultural historians and historians of science and technology.

Review Commentary

The Culture of the Body is rich and densely argued, betraying a keen taste for early modern literature and philosophy.

Tom Conley, Harvard University

The Culture of the Body is a brilliant contribution to our understanding of who we are as bodies today. It will speak to a wide academic audi- ence, not the least because it takes up and inflects the accounts of mo- dernity developed by figures like Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Foucault.

Michael Schwartz, Augusta State University

Table of Contents


Part 1. Baroque Embodiments

1. Montaigne's Scriptorial Bodies: Experience, Sexuality, Style

2. Emblematic Legacies: Regendering the Hieroglyphs of Desire

Part 2. Cartesian Bodies, Virtual Bodies

3. The Automaton as Virtual Model: Anatomy, Technology, and the Inhuman

4. Spectral Metaphysics: Errant Bodies and Bodies in Error

5. Incorporations: Royal Power, or the Social Body in Corneille's The Cid

Part 3. Materialist Machines

6. Men-Machines

7. Sex at the Limits of Representation





Book Details

248 pages

Published (c) 2001

ISBN: 0-472-09742-3

ISBN: 0-472-06742-7

Ordering Information

Available in paperback ($13.99) or hardcover ($99.62)


University of Michigan Press

U. Michigan Press