Janus Head 12 (2):5-9 (2011)

Rajiv Kaushik
Brock University
Athena V. Colman
Brock University
The struggle to “adapt” to the presence of the corpse serves as the central turning point for this investigation into the theatrical encounters with the corpse in the early modern anatomy theatre. Beginning with novelist W.G. Sebald’s claim, in The Rings of Saturn, that the art of anatomy was a way of “making the reprobate body invisible,” Alvarez queries how the corpse as the central “gure of this theatrical space challenges conventional modes of theatrical looking and how the particular viewing procedures invited by the anatomy theatre, as a theatrical space, effectively make the body “unseen.” Using Restoration diarist Samuel Pepys’ documented encounter with a corpse and the early phenomenologist Aurel Kolnai’s writings On Disgust, Alvarez attempts to account for the “perceptual and interpretive black hole” that the corpse presents in this schema. The corpse’s “radical actuality” and, paradoxically, its “surplus of life” act as a cipher that cuts through the virtual space constructed by the anatomical demonstration, undermining the gravitas of the scientific gaze that has acquired its weight in contradistinction to the theatricality of the event. But the corpse’s “radical actuality” and its “surplus of life” introduces a danse macabre of theatrical looking that moves between absorption and repulsion, reversing the otherwise consumptive gaze of the onlooker.
Keywords Continental Philosophy  Language and Literature
Categories No categories specified
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DOI 10.5840/jh201112225
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