Monsters and Artists
In the previous chapter I discussed an otherwise unstudied aspect of nineteenth-century France’s relation to the dead—the creative and erotic potential hidden in concerns about putrescent matter. In this chapter, I will look at the aestheticization of physical death and the abject desires associated with it to see how that potential could be tapped by artists. I will concentrate on three examples of what one might call medicalized art, in which the physical properties of death were, on the one hand, treated as a material to be reworked imaginatively and, on the other, as the object of a sustained meditation. In each of these cases, the artists in question consciously entertained what one might call a diacritical relation to contemporary scientific thought, in that they reflected, from their own disciplinary perspective, on the meaning of what was happening in medicine—diacritical in the sense that those reflections inflected the significance of the scientific theories they drew on. These are not simply examples of artists borrowing metaphors or conceptual structures from the sciences, but rather evidence of artists bringing their own powers to bear on those imaginative aspects of scientific theory that I have
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Publication information: Book title: Human Remains: Medicine, Death, and Desire in Nineteenth-Century Paris. Contributors: Jonathan Strauss - Author. Publisher: Fordham University Press. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 2012. Page number: 169.
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