The Dream of the Moving Statue

By Kenneth Gross | Go to book overview
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Preface

These things cannot happen: a statue cannot move or speak; it cannot open its eyes, nod, or call out, cannot tell a story, dance, or do work; it cannot turn on the viewer, or run away, banishing its solidity and repose, shedding its silence. A statue is almost by definition a thing that stands still, and what we call its movement is at best a resonant figure of speech. Yet these things happen; we imagine them happening. Our language requires that they happen. The fantasy of a statue that comes to life is as central a fable as we have. The idea of motion or speech in an inanimate stone is an inescapable possibility, a concept of a sort so basic that we can hardly call it a metaphor. Time and again, we find texts in which the statue that stands immobile in temple or square descends from its pedestal, or speaks out of its silence. Such fantasies are simply part of what we know about statues, and what statues can represent to us; they are part of the way that we stitch ourselves and statues into the world. They are also part of what we do not know about statues, or have yet to know.

The idea of the animated statue appears everywhere. One finds it in fairy tales and philosophy, in ancient magic and romantic novellas, in classical ballet and modern television commercials (for wine, perfume, coffee, soap, game shows, and body building, to name just a few). This book is an attempt to describe the often ambiguous sources of such fantasies, and to consider the parables they offer about things that are not statues. Among other things, fantasies about animated statues can suggest how the reciprocal ambitions of writing and

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