Monsters and Artists

Jonathan Strauss

in Human Remains

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print February 2012 | ISBN: 9780823233793
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780823241262 | DOI:

Series: Forms of Living

Monsters and Artists

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This chapter reveals ways in which artists and novelists aestheticized material death and the abject desires associated with it. They drew on the materiality of their works to examine the relations between life and death. The painter and lithographer Odilon Redon used his conversance with anatomy, biology, and evolution to develop a pictorial universe in which death could be viewed from the viewpoint of the dead. Balzac went further by looking at the relations between putrefaction and the fictional status of literary characters. Flaubert tapped a metaphorics of dead bodies to imagine the complex relations between historical and novelistic narratives. In each of these cases, the medicalized knowledge of death offered a means for expressing and thinking through the materiality of artworks while offering insights into the imaginary and libidinal aspects of medical thought. As such, they represent a significant commentary on contemporary scientific theories.

Keywords: Odilon Redon; Honoré de Balzac; La Cousine Bette; Cousin Bette; Gustave Flaubert; L'éducation sentimentale; A Sentimental Education

Chapter.  21371 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literature

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