Cover image for Pictures of the body : pain and metamorphosis
Pictures of the body : pain and metamorphosis
Elkins, James, 1955-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Stanford, Calif. : Stanford University Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
xvii, 347 pages : illustrations ; 27 cm

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
N7625.5 .E45 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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In a wide-ranging argument moving from Sumerian demons to Lucian Freud, from Syriac prayer books to John Carpenter's film The Thing, this book explores the ways the body has been represented through time. A response to the vertiginous increase in writings on bodily representations, it attempts to form a single coherent account of the possible forms of representation of the body.

The conceptual binding is provided by the idea of pain, understood as the set of images that elicit visceral, nonverbal, or uncognized responses, and the realm of metamorphosis, meaning the images that provoke intellection and, in particular, thoughts of change and concepts of alterity or representation. The author shows how pain and metamorphosis have animated and ordered the vast range of images that have been produced in Western representation, and he argues that pain and metamorphosis continue to be generative concepts even amid the welter of today's new forms.

This work brings together concerns, images, and concepts from a wide range of perspectives: art history and criticism, the history and philosophy of medicine, the history of race, phenomenological and post-phenomenological thought, studies of feminism and pornography, and the new interest in visual studies. Yet it is less a philosopher's look at history or a historian's foray into philosophy than a practical and critical look at the current constellation of art practices. Above all, it is intended to be of immediate use in the conceptualization and production of visual art and its history.

Author Notes

James Elkins is Professor in the Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsp. xiii
List of Tablesp. xvii
Introductionp. 1
Part 1 Pain
1. Membranesp. 35
2. Psychomachiap. 71
3. Cut Fleshp. 109
Part 2 Metamorphosis
4. By Looking Alonep. 153
5. Analogic Seeingp. 205
6. Dry Schematap. 245
Notesp. 287
Indexp. 339