In Corpore: Bodies in Post-Unification Italy

In Corpore: Bodies in Post-Unification Italy

In Corpore: Bodies in Post-Unification Italy

In Corpore: Bodies in Post-Unification Italy


Collects essays devoted to the critical exploration of the presence and impact of bodies in contemporary Italian cultural production, and in the light of developments in thinking about bodies and their locations within cultures. This book includes essays that assume a plurality of conceptions of culture and of the body.


Loredana Polezzi and Charlotte Ross

The body … is a medium of culture. the body, as anthropol
ogist Mary Daly has argued, is a powerful symbolic form, a
surface on which the central rules, hierarchies and even
metaphysical commitments of a culture are inscribed and
thus reinforced through the language of the body.

Affirming the connection between bodies and their CULtural locations, coordinates, and inscriptions is not, in itself, an unusual or a controversial statement. Yet things get more complicated, as they always tend to do, once we try to qualify the meaning and role of the two major players in that relationship: “the body” and “culture.” Definitions promptly become problematic (are we talking of high culture, popular culture or even mid-cult? do we invoke the anthropological notion of a whole way of life? do we endorse romantic and modernist models of national culture?), as do grammatical forms (should we talk of a unified culture or of multiple, perhaps hybridizing cultures? of a stable, self-contained and self-affirming body or of dynamic, multiform—and potentially much more unstable—bodies?).

A collection of essays looking at bodies in Italian culture is particularly susceptible to such complications. “Italian culture” carries associations with the long lineage of Western tradition, starting with classical art and thought, encompassing the Renaissance, and reaching out toward modernity and postmodernity. That tradition is described as an (almost) uninterrupted line moving through phases of splendor, decadence, and regeneration—phases which have themselves been naturalized, producing a discursive construction which exploits the language of biology to inscribe culture with the bodily functions of birth, growth, decomposition, and death (plus the religious connotations of afterlife and resurrection). It is this tradition which is also used to explain the paradox of the preexistence of an Italian national culture over that of an Italian nation-state. and it is its . . .

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