The Gothic Body

by on May.18, 2011

Today I’m reading a book called Gothic Bodies: The Politics of Pain in Romantic Fiction by Steven Bruhm:

“Thus what I am calling the “Gothic body” is that which is put on excessive display, and whose violent, vulnerable immediacy gives both the Delacroix painting and Gothic fiction their beautiful barbarity, their troublesome power. Sardanapalus contemplates pain, and has the luxury of doing so because he is not feeling it… Pain for Sardanapalus is filtered through spectacle: it has that curiously fascinating quality that inflicters of pain have exploited in different ways from the Roman Coliseum to the contemporary slasher film… In Radcliffe and Wordsworth, imagined pain isolates the the imaginer; in the Romantic drama, however, that isolated spectator risks being infected by the violence he or she contemplates. If, as Blake said in Jerusalem, we become what we behold, then the effects of imagined violence – like those of stage violence – become much more difficult to control. The imagination itself risks becoming the stage for the playing out of Gothic violences.”

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