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This review is taken from PN Review 35, Volume 10 Number 3, January - February 1984.

MISSING BODY Gabriel Josipovici, Writing and the Body (Harvester) £15.95
David Piper, The Image of the Poet: British Poets and their Portraits (Oxford) £17.50
Shelley on Love, ed. Richard Holmes (Anvil Press) £3.95 pb.

With the death of the soul as a dominant metaphysical concept, the vile body has been raised and refurbished. After centuries of religious and social repression, it has now, in the twentieth century, been liberated; that, at any rate, is the conventional wisdom. The body is appealed to as a certainty, a constant, a source of action and experience; it has surged back into our speech and writing; its image has proliferated in newspapers and magazines, and on cinema and television screens. But the body still proves strangely elusive; multiple reproductions of its image, far from enhancing its solidity, make it seem two-dimensional, weightless; the more we talk of it, the more plural it becomes. Different discourses - medical, legal, military, sexual - offer versions of the body with different functions, constraints, possibilities; it turns, according to context, into an object to be rewarded or punished, healed or harmed, enjoyed or endured, saved or destroyed. Where, in all this, is the 'real' body located? Moreover it may be, as Michel Foucault has suggested in respect of sexuality, that the multiplication of discourses about the body is not a break with, but an extension of, the supposedly repressive discourses of the past which, in fact, paid great attention to the body as an object to be controlled and purified. To produce the body's privacies in public, for example to subject us all to the power of that magic ring which can make the sexual organs speak (Foucault's image, drawn from ...


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