Francis Barker: The Tremulous Private Body 

In the seventeenth century there was a profound change in the conditions and representation of the body. Reflecting on a wide range of works, including the Jacobean drama, Marvell’s To His Coy Mistress, rembrandt’s painting, the philosophy of descartes, milton’s areopagitica and Samuel Pepys’ diary, Francis Barkers essay maps a transformation of the spectacular corporeality of the dramatic stage and the scaffold of public execution in the course of which a sexually embarrassing body is redefined, privatized and pushed away from discourse into a furtive half-life beyond the text. The new regime separates the body from the soul and divides the body into two components: the absent body whose desires and appetites are denied, and the positive body which is eventually reinscribed as an object of rational knowledge, prepared for productive and disciplined labour. Built into the argument is an evocation of the way in which this process defines not only the new body, but equally the conditions of modern subjectivity and subjection. The self-gendered subject is constructed comes to define the orders of discourse and of representation which typify the bourgeois epoch. Drawing on the theoretical work of foucault, Derrida, and lacan, and the Marxism of Louis Althusser, the tremulous private body engages the central theme of post-structuralism- discourse, sexuality, textuality and power- but is not a post structuralist work and rejected many of the positions characteristic of post-structuralism, particularly its tendency to depoliticize discourse.
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Margaret R. Miles: Carnal Knowing: Female Nakedness and Religious Meaning in the Christian West

An exploration of the power of visual and verbal representations of female nakedness throughout Western Christian history. Margaret Miles looks at how men have treated women's bodies – in their actions, art and writings, and why, in Christian history, naked female bodies have symbolized shame.

Margaret R. Miles is Emeritus Professor of Historical Theology at the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley. As Bussey Professor of Theology, she taught the history of Christian thought for 20 years at Harvard University Divinity School. Her previous books include Plotinus on Body and Beauty (Blackwell, 1999), Reading for Life (1996), Seeing and Believing (1996), Desire and Delight (1993), Practicing Christianity (1988), Carnal Knowing (1988), Seeing and Believing (1996), and A Complex Delight (2007).

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Additional Resources:
Margaret R. Miles: Religion and the Common Good (lecture)
Living Lovingly in a Culture of Fear (Lecture)
Gender and Teaching in Education (Essay)

Jean Baudrillard: America


For those looking for a bleak, lyrical and biting summer read.

Where the others spend their time in libraries, I spend mine in the deserts and on the roads." Jean Baudrillard's travel diary of his time in America was first published in 1986 and has been reissued with a new introduction by Geoff Dyer. Written while Reagan was president, Baudrillard's provocative account of this "obsessional society" remains relevant. From the "steepling gentleness" of New York's skyscrapers to the "limitless horizontality" of Los Angeles, he explores this New World, where the carpets have an "orgasmic elasticity" and the people are "like shadows that have escaped from Plato's cave". The crowded cities are "electrifying" and "cinematic", but in the deserts Baudrillard finds a serene emptiness. For all its strangeness, America is "an amazing place". The book is sometimes Delphic ("Americans believe in facts, but not in facticity"), frequently brilliant ("there is nothing more mysterious than a TV set left on in an empty room"), but always original, memorable and even funny: "Americans may have no identity, but they do have wonderful teeth."
PD Smith

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Further Reading:
Selected Writings (PDF)
The System of Objects (PDF)
A Marginal System: Collecting (PDF/Excerpt)
The Conspiracy of Art (PDF)

Paul Auster: City of Glass (New York Trilogy)

In Paul Auster's remarkable ''City of Glass,'' the ostensible mystery drives from the book's odd and often strangely humorous working of the detective novel genre. The real mystery, however, is one of confused character identity, the descent of a writer into a laby-rinth in which fact and fiction become increasingly difficult to separate. The city of the title is New York, the only truly constant character in the book, and it is the fate of this city to be walked through and interpreted by the writer Quinn and the philosopher and former convict Stillman. Quinn has been hired to follow Stillman, to prevent him from murdering his son. In the beginning the city is transparent, a place of light and air in which Quinn can stay outside of his mind's tortured concerns, concentrating on neutral details. Later is is reminiscent of that wasted city in Nathanael West's ''Miss Lonelyhearts,'' a place begging for interpretation and order. Always its reflects Quinn's and Stillman's search for arcane truth or psychological peace. (Excerpt from NYT Review)

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Reviews:
The New Canon (also just a strange website to check out, supposedly cataloguing the new literary canon since 1985)
Shallow Graves: The Novels of Paul Auster (The New Yorker)

Bram Dijkstra: Idols of Perversity, Fantasies of Feminine Evil in Fin-De-Siecle Culture

At the turn of the century, an unprecedented attack on women erupted in virtually every aspect of culture: literary, artistic, scientific, and philosophic. Throughout Europe and America, artists and intellectuals banded together to portray women as static and unindividuated beings who functioned solely in a sexual and reproductive capacity, thus formulating many of the anti-feminine platitudes that today still constrain women’s potential.
Bram Dijkstra’s Idols of Perversity explores the nature and development of turn-of-the-century misogyny in the works of hundreds of writers, artists, and scientists, including Zola, Strindberg, Wedekind, Henry James, Rossetti, Renoir, Moreau, Klimt, Darwin, and Spencer. Dijkstra demonstrates that the most prejudicial aspects of Evolutionary Theory helped to justify this wave of anti-feminine sentiment. The theory claimed that the female of the species could not participate in the great evolutionary process that would guide the intellectual male to his ultimate, predestined role as a disembodied spiritual essence. Darwinists argued that women hindered this process by their willingness to lure men back to a sham paradise of erotic materialism. To protect the male’s continued evolution, artists and intellectuals produced a flood of pseudo-scientific tracts, novels, and paintings which warned the world’s males of the evils lying beneath the surface elegance of woman’s tempting skin.
Reproducing hundreds of pictures from the period and including in-depth discussions of such key works as Dracula and Venus in Furs, this fascinating book not only exposes the crucial links between misogyny then and now, but also connects it to the racism and anti-semitism that led to catastrophic genocidal delusions in the first half of the twentieth century. Crossing the conventional boundaries of art history, sociology, the history of scientific theory, and literary analysis, Dijkstra unveils a startling view of a grim and largely one-sided war on women still being fought today.

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Roger Lipsey: The Spiritual in 20th C. Art // Wassily Kandinsky: Concerning the Spiritual in Art


In 1911, modernist painter Wassily Kandinsky published Concerning the Spiritual in Art, a treatise on the meaning of modern art and a challenge to his contemporaries to free their work from traditional bonds. Eight decades later, the distinguished scholar Roger Lipsey examined the response to Kandinsky's call with this exploration of the spiritual content of twentieth-century art.
A compelling, well-illustrated history of art and ideas, this book focuses on the works of such renowned painters as Mondrian, Klee, Picasso, Braque, Duchamp, Matisse, and Brancusi. Lipsey interprets each creation within the context of its conception, examining the movements that inspired each work, from Theosophy and Buddhism to Jungian thought and humanistic psychology. Letters, diaries, and interviews provide insights into the artists' views of spirituality and the ways in which they approached their work as a form of meditation. The eloquent and knowledgeable commentary is enhanced by 121 meticulously reproduced black-and-white illustrations.\

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A pioneering work in the movement to free art from its traditional bonds to material reality, this book is one of the most important documents in the history of modern art. Written by the famous nonobjective painter Wassily Kandinsky (1866–1944), it explains Kandinsky's own theory of painting and crystallizes the ideas that were influencing many other modern artists of the period. Along with his own groundbreaking paintings, this book had a tremendous impact on the development of modern art.
Kandinsky's ideas are presented in two parts. The first part, called "About General Aesthetic," issues a call for a spiritual revolution in painting that will let artists express their own inner lives in abstract, non-material terms. Just as musicians do not depend upon the material world for their music, so artists should not have to depend upon the material world for their art. In the second part, "About Painting," Kandinsky discusses the psychology of colors, the language of form and color, and the responsibilities of the artist. An Introduction by the translator, Michael T. H. Sadler, offers additional explanation of Kandinsky's art and theories, while a new Preface by Richard Stratton discusses Kandinsky's career as a whole and the impact of the book. Making the book even more valuable are nine woodcuts by Kandinsky himself that appear at the chapter headings.
This English translation of Über das Geistige in der Kunst was a significant contribution to the understanding of nonobjectivism in art. It continues to be a stimulating and necessary reading experience for every artist, art student, and art patron concerned with the direction of 20th-century painting.

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Jean Baudrillard: Simulacra and Simulation


The first full-length translation in English of an essential work of postmodernism.

The publication of Simulacra et Simulation in 1981 marked Jean Baudrillard's first important step toward theorizing the postmodern. Moving away from the Marxist/Freudian approaches that had concerned him earlier, Baudrillard developed in this book a theory of contemporary culture that relies on displacing economic notions of cultural production with notions of cultural expenditure.

Baudrillard uses the concepts of the simulacra—the copy without an original—and simulation. These terms are crucial to an understanding of the postmodern, to the extent that they address the concept of mass reproduction and reproduceability that characterizes our electronic media culture.

Baudrillard's book represents a unique and original effort to rethink cultural theory from the perspective of a new concept of cultural materialism, one that radically redefines postmodern formulations of the body.

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Roland Barthes: Mythologies


"No denunciation without its proper instrument of close analysis," Roland Barthes wrote in his preface to Mythologies. There is no more proper instrument of analysis of our contemporary myths than this book—one of the most significant works in French theory, and one that has transformed the way readers and philosophers view the world around them.

Our age is a triumph of codification. We own devices that bring the world to the command of our fingertips. We have access to boundless information and prodigious quantities of stuff. We decide to like or not, to believe or not, to buy or not. We pick and choose. We think we are free. Yet all around us, in pop culture, politics, mainstream media, and advertising, there are codes and symbols that govern our choices. They are the fabrications of consumer society. They express myths of success, well-being, or happiness. As Barthes sees it, these myths must be carefully deciphered, and debunked.

What Barthes discerned in mass media, the fashion of plastic, and the politics of postcolonial France applies with equal force to today's social networks, the iPhone, and the images of 9/11. This new edition of Mythologies, complete and beautifully rendered by the Pulitzer Prize–winning poet, critic, and translator Richard Howard, is a consecration of Barthes's classic—a lesson in clairvoyance that is more relevant now than ever.

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Anne Truitt: Daybook: the Journal of an Artist


Renowned American artist Anne Truitt kept this illuminating and inspiring journal over a period of seven years, determined to come to terms with the forces that shaped her art and life. Her range of sensitivity—moral, intellectual, sensual, emotional, and spiritual— is remarkably broad. She recalls her childhood on the eastern shore of Maryland, her career change from psychology to art, and her path to a sculptural practice that would “set color free in three dimensions.” She reflects on the generous advice of other artists, watches her own daughters’ journey into motherhood, meditates on criticism and solitude, and struggles to find the way to express her vision. Resonant and true, encouraging and revelatory, Anne Truitt guides herself—and her readers—through a life in which domestic activities and the needs of children and friends are constantly juxtaposed against the world of color and abstract geometry to which she is drawn in her art.

Beautifully written and a rare window on the workings of a creative mind, Daybook showcases an extraordinary artist whose insights generously and succinctly illuminate the artistic process.

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Robert Irwin: Notes Towards a Conditional Art


Robert Irwin, who is one of the most important artists of this era, was a seminal figure in "Light and Space" art. He began as an Abstract Expressionist painter in the 1950s, and was for some time (but is no longer) an artist who produced no art obejcts. Irwin's philosophical and aesthetic theories are so far-reaching that only now, some twenty years after they were first posited, has the art world begun to recognize that his questions about perception come to bear upon the definition of art itself. In the 1960s, his disc paintings succeeded in "breaking the edge of the canvas," with the resultant effect that the space surrounding the work became equally important. In the 1970s, Irwin created room-environment pieces of a phenomenal or non-object nature across the United States. Comprised solely of light, string, or nylon scrim, these works placed the responsibility upon the viewer in order to bring him to a position where he could "perceive himself perceiving" – "The Mondrian was no longer on the wall – the viewer was in the Mondrian." In the last ten years, Irwin's sculptural aesthetic and his philosophical theories have merged to provide the impetus behind a major body of sculpture created in response to a specific site, situation, or locale. Irwin's importance as an artist lies not only in the beauty and clarity of his precendent-setting work, but in his theoretical contribtion, which provides a framework by which all phenomenal works can be examined. This book, written by the artist, lays out his theoretical position and documents the working processes behind seventeen major sculpture projects created over the past decade. — from dust jacket.

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