Out now: The hurt(ful) body: Performing and beholding pain, 1600-1800

A few years ago, GEMS was one of the co-organisers of the conference ‘The Hurt(ful) Body before Diderot: Pain and Suffering in Early Modern Performance and the Visual Arts (c. 1600-1790)‘. A volume based on this conference appeared last week at Manchester University Press, edited by Tomas Macsotay, Karel Vanhaesebrouck and Cornelis van der Haven. This book offers a cross-disciplinary approach to pain and suffering in the early modern period, based on research in the fields of literary studies, art history, theatre studies, cultural history and the study of emotions. It has a sustained focus on visual sources, textual material and documents about actual events rather than well-known thinkers or ‘masterpieces’ of art history, and a preference for cases and historical contexts over systematic theory-building.

The hurt(ful) body brings under discussion visual and performative representations of embodied pain, using an insistently dialectical approach that takes into account the perspective of the hurt body itself, the power and afflictions of its beholder and, finally, the routinising and redeeming of hurt within institutional contexts. The volume’s two-fold approach of the hurt body, defining ‘hurt’ both from the perspective of the victim and the beholder (as well as their combined creation of a gaze), is unique. It establishes a double perspective about the riddle of ‘cruel’ viewing by tracking the shifting cultural meanings of victims’ bodies, and confronting them to the values of audiences, religious and popular institutional settings, and practices of punishment. It encompasses both the victim’s presence as an image or performed event of pain and the conundrum of the look – the transmitted ‘pain’ experienced by the watching audience. This will be done through three rubrics: the early modern performing body, beholder or audience responses, and the operations of institutional power.

Because of its interdisciplinary approach of the history of pain and the hurt(ful) body, the book will be of interest for Lecturers and students from different fields, like the history of ideas, the history of the body, urban history, theatre studies, literary studies, art history, emotion studies and performance studies

With contributions by Christian Biet, Jonathan Sawday, Javier Moscoso and others.

See also the Q&A with the editors

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