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David Bleich sees the human body, its affective life, social life, and political functions as belonging to the study of language. In The Materiality of Language, Bleich addresses the need to end centuries of limiting access to language and its many contexts of use. To recognize language as material and treat it as such, argues Bleich, is to remove restrictions to language access due to historic patterns of academic censorship and unfair gender practices. Language is understood as a key path in the formation of all social and political relations, and becomes available for study by all speakers, who may regulate it, change it, and make it flexible like other material things.
We believe we know our bodies intimately--that their material reality is certain and that this certainty leads to an epistemological truth about sex, gender, and identity. By exploring and giving equal weight to transgendered subjectivities, however, Gayle Salamon upends these certainties. Considering questions of transgendered embodiment via phenomenology (Maurice Merleau-Ponty), psychoanalysis (Sigmund Freud and Paul Ferdinand Schilder), and queer theory, Salamon advances an alternative theory of normative and non-normative gender, proving the value and vitality of trans experience for thinking about embodiment. Salamon suggests that the difference between transgendered and normatively gendered bodies is not, in the end, material. Rather, she argues that the production of gender itself relies on a disjunction between the "felt sense" of the body and an understanding of the body's corporeal contours, and that this process need not be viewed as pathological in nature. Examining the relationship between material and phantasmatic accounts of bodily being, Salamon emphasizes the productive tensions that make the body both present and absent in our consciousness and work to confirm and unsettle gendered certainties. She questions traditional theories that explain how the body comes to be--and comes to be made one's own--and she offers a new framework for thinking about what "counts" as a body. The result is a groundbreaking investigation into the phenomenological life of gender.
This book suggests that modern cultural and critical institutions have persistently associated questions of aesthetics and politics with literature, theory, technics, and Romanticism. Its first section examines aesthetic nationalism and the figure of the body, focusing on writings by Benedict Anderson, J. G. Fichte, and Matthew Arnold, and arguing that uneasy acts of aestheticization (of media technology) and abjection (of the maternal body) undergird the production of the national body as “imagined community.” Subsequent chapters on Paul de Man, Friedrich Schlegel, and Percy Shelley explore the career of the gendered body in the aesthetic tradition and the relationship among aesthetics, technics, politics, and figurative language. The author accounts for the hysteria that has characterized media representations of theory, explains why and how Romanticism has remained a locus of extravagant political hopes and anxieties, and, in a sequence of close readings, uncovers the “anaesthetic” condition of possibility of the politics of aesthetics.
In revolutionary France the life of things could not be assured. War, shortage of materials, and frequent changes in political authority meant that few large-scale artworks or permanent monuments to the Revolution’s memory were completed. On the contrary, visual practice in revolutionary France was characterized by the production and circulation of a range of transitional, provisional, ephemeral, and half-made images and objects, from printed paper money, passports, and almanacs to temporary festival installations and relics of the demolished Bastille. Addressing this mass of images conventionally ignored in art history, The Politics of the Provisional contends that they were at the heart of debates on the nature of political authenticity and historical memory during the French Revolution. Thinking about material durability, this book suggests, was one of the key ways in which revolutionaries conceptualized duration, and it was crucial to how they imagined the Revolution’s transformative role in history. The Politics of the Provisional is the first book in the Art History Publication Initiative (AHPI), a collaborative grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Thanks to the AHPI grant, this book is available on a variety of popular e-book platforms.
Voice in Motion explores the human voice as a literary, historical, and performative motif in early modern English drama and culture, where the voice was frequently represented as struggling, even failing, to work. In a compelling and original argument, Gina Bloom demonstrates that early modern ideas about the efficacy of spoken communication spring from an understanding of the voice's materiality. Voices can be cracked by the bodies that produce them, scattered by winds when transmitted as breath through their acoustic environment, stopped by clogged ears meant to receive them, and displaced by echoic resonances. The early modern theater underscored the voice's volatility through the use of pubescent boy actors, whose vocal organs were especially vulnerable to malfunction. Reading plays by Shakespeare, Marston, and their contemporaries alongside a wide range of late sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century texts—including anatomy books, acoustic science treatises, Protestant sermons, music manuals, and even translations of Ovid—Bloom maintains that cultural representations and theatrical enactments of the voice as "unruly matter" undermined early modern hierarchies of gender. The uncontrollable physical voice creates anxiety for men, whose masculinity is contingent on their capacity to discipline their voices and the voices of their subordinates. By contrast, for women the voice is most effective not when it is owned and mastered but when it is relinquished to the environment beyond. There, the voice's fragile material form assumes its full destabilizing potential and becomes a surprising source of female power. Indeed, Bloom goes further to query the boundary between the production and reception of vocal sound, suggesting provocatively that it is through active listening, not just speaking, that women on and off the stage reshape their world. Bringing together performance theory, theater history, theories of embodiment, and sound studies, this book makes a significant contribution to gender studies and feminist theory by challenging traditional conceptions of the links among voice, body, and self.