Carolyn J. Dean

in The Frail Social Body

Published by University of California Press

Published in print February 2000 | ISBN: 9780520219953
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520923485 | DOI:

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  • Modern History (1700 to 1945)


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This book analyzes how interwar cultural critics in France reconstructed the meaning of bodily integrity through the elaboration of fantasies about the body-violating qualities of pornography and homosexuality. It explores how shifts in the historical meaning of sexuality are related to shifts in the fantasmic concept of bodily integrity; how discussions about sexual behaviors and representations are then constitutive of the integral body; why pornography and homosexuality were invested with a psychic and cultural charge so forceful that critics perceived them as capable of unbinding the impermeable body, and with that body, the social world of metaphorical territories and boundaries fashioned in its image; and how the experience of violence was figured and inscribed in the social body. The book also describes the process by which pornography and homosexuality came to symbolize the modern violation of human dignity and thus traces one of many complicated narratives that fashioned the liberal social body. That process was inextricable from the reconstitution of the integral male body in new terms after World War I.

Keywords: France; bodily integrity; World War I; fantasies; social body; homosexuality; pornography; human dignity; sexual behaviors; violence

Chapter.  7683 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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