Academic journal article French Forum

The Art and Aesthetics of Boxing

Academic journal article French Forum

The Art and Aesthetics of Boxing

Article excerpt

David Scott, The Art and Aesthetics of Boxing.

Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2008. 167 pp.

The Art and Aesthetics of Boxing presents itself as an analysis of the art and poetry that takes boxing as its subject; but in its own right the book is itself an artistic and poetic presentation of boxing. Even for readers disturbed by boxing's violence, David Scott convincingly delineates a theory of boxing aesthetics and argues for boxing's importance in defining masculinity in Europe and the USA, particularly in the twentieth century. Scott further stakes a claim for boxing as a fertile field for artistic attention thanks to its deep historical roots, as a result of the way the sport concentrates violence, deception, and beauty in the blank space of the ring, and because of the sport's numerous contradictions that reflect the "dynamic tension" of modern life.

Scott divides his book into three parts. Part One examines the history of boxing from antiquity into the twentieth century with a particular emphasis on the way the evolution of boxing's rules have made the sport a more appealing visual spectacle: the advent of the glove, the change from the ring of people surrounding fighters to the "square ring" of the modern sport, the advent of rounds, the use of feminine silk clothing, the addition of flexible ropes, and so forth. Part Two provides a careful reading of numerous works of art, from photos to sculptures to posters to paintings. Scott moves quickly through different artistic movements suggesting, as examples, that futurist artists focused on boxing because of its energy and constant movement, that cubists appreciated the multiple perspectives the moving boxers in the "ring/cube" afforded them, that an installation artist takes advantage of boxing's spatial confines to study the notion of painting (playing on the term "canvas") and the nature of public persona. In Part Three, Scott studies boxing literature, examining in rapid succession authors such as Tristan Tzara, Paul Eluard, Vladimir Nabokov, Maurice Maeterlinck, and Joyce Carol Oates, among others. Scott focuses on two themes in the literary excerpts he selects: the paradoxical relationship between pain and friendship and the use of boxing as a mechanism to negotiate modern masculinity.

This last section ties up what could be considered the work's strongest and most persistent theme: boxing and gender. …

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