front cover of Beyond the Flesh
Beyond the Flesh
Alexander Blok, Zinaida Gippius, and the Symbolist Sublimation of Sex
Jenifer Presto
University of Wisconsin Press, 2008
Though the Russian Symbolist movement was dominated by a concern with transcending sex, many of the writers associated with the movement exhibited an intense preoccupation with matters of the flesh. Drawing on poetry, plays, short stories, essays, memoirs, and letters, as well as feminist and psychoanalytic theory, Beyond the Flesh documents the often unexpected form that this obsession with gender and the body took in the life and art of two of the most important Russian Symbolists.
            Jenifer Presto argues that the difficulties encountered in reading Alexander Blok and Zinaida Gippius within either a feminist or a traditional, binary gendered framework derive not only from the peculiarities of their creative personalities but also from the specific Russian cultural context. Although these two poets engaged in gendered practices that, at times, appeared to be highly idiosyncratic and even incited gossip among their contemporaries, they were not operating in a vacuum. Instead, they were responding to philosophical concepts that were central to Russian Symbolism and that would continue to shape modernism in Russia.
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Black Bourgeois
Class and Sex in the Flesh
Candice M. Jenkins
University of Minnesota Press, 2019

Exploring the forces that keep black people vulnerable even amid economically privileged lives


At a moment in U.S. history with repeated reminders of the vulnerability of African Americans to state and extralegal violence, Black Bourgeois is the first book to consider the contradiction of privileged, presumably protected black bodies that nonetheless remain racially vulnerable. Examining disruptions around race and class status in literary texts, Candice M. Jenkins reminds us that the conflicted relation of the black subject to privilege is not, solely, a recent phenomenon.

Focusing on works by Toni Morrison, Spike Lee, Danzy Senna, Rebecca Walker, Reginald McKnight, Percival Everett, Colson Whitehead, and Michael Thomas, Jenkins shows that the seemingly abrupt discursive shift from post–Civil Rights to Black Lives Matter, from an emphasis on privilege and progress to an emphasis on vulnerability and precariousness, suggests a pendulum swing between two interrelated positions still in tension. By analyzing how these narratives stage the fraught interaction between the black and the bourgeois, Jenkins offers renewed attention to class as a framework for the study of black life—a necessary shift in an age of rapidly increasing income inequality and societal stratification.

Black Bourgeois thus challenges the assumed link between blackness and poverty that has become so ingrained in the United States, reminding us that privileged subjects, too, are “classed.” This book offers, finally, a rigorous and nuanced grasp of how African Americans live within complex, intersecting identities.

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Fictions of Land and Flesh
Blackness, Indigeneity, Speculation
Mark Rifkin
Duke University Press, 2019
In Fictions of Land and Flesh Mark Rifkin explores the impasses that arise in seeking to connect Black and Indigenous movements, turning to speculative fiction to understand those difficulties and envision productive ways of addressing them. Against efforts to subsume varied forms of resistance into a single framework in the name of solidarity, Rifkin argues that Black and Indigenous political struggles are oriented in distinct ways, following their own lines of development and contestation. Rifkin suggests how movement between the two can be approached as something of a speculative leap in which the terms and dynamics of one are disoriented in the encounter with the other. Futurist fiction provides a compelling site for exploring such disjunctions. Through analyses of works by Octavia Butler, Walter Mosley, Nalo Hopkinson, Melissa Tantaquidgeon Zobel, and others, the book illustrates how ideas about fungibility, fugitivity, carcerality, marronage, sovereignty, placemaking, and governance shape the ways Black and Indigenous intellectuals narrate the past, present, and future. In turning to speculative fiction, Rifkin illustrates how speculation as a process provides conceptual and ethical resources for recognizing difference while engaging across it.
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Flesh and Bones
The Art of Anatomy
Monique Kornell
J. Paul Getty Trust, The, 2022
This illustrated volume examines the different methods artists and anatomists used to reveal the inner workings of the human body and evoke wonder in its form.
 

For centuries, anatomy was a fundamental component of artistic training, as artists such as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo sought to skillfully portray the human form. In Europe, illustrations that captured the complex structure of the body—spectacularly realized by anatomists, artists, and printmakers in early atlases such as Andreas Vesalius’s De humani corporis fabrica libri septem of 1543—found an audience with both medical practitioners and artists.

Flesh and Bones examines the inventive ways anatomy has been presented from the sixteenth through the twenty-first century, including an animated corpse displaying its own body for study, anatomized antique sculpture, spectacular life-size prints, delicate paper flaps, and 3-D stereoscopic photographs. Drawn primarily from the vast holdings of the Getty Research Institute, the over 150 striking images, which range in media from woodcut to neon, reveal the uncanny beauty of the human body under the skin.

 
This volume is published to accompany an exhibition on view at the Getty Research Institute at the Getty Center from February 22 to July 10, 2022.
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Flesh and Fabric
The Raiment of the Passion in a Crucifixion by Pietro Lorenzetti
Jeffrey F. Hamburger
Harvard University Press
Although the works of Pietro Lorenzetti (1280–1348) rank among the most famous of the fourteenth century, one of his panels, a small Crucifixion, has remained largely overlooked, despite its unique imagery. Combining three temporal horizons—past, present, and eschatological future—within an unparalleled allegorical presentation of the Crucifixion, this panel grants precedence to Clare of Assisi over Francis, founder of the Franciscan Order. Probably created for a nun, Lorenzetti’s painting turns abstruse allegory into a vehicle for a self-conscious meditation on the power of painting itself. In Flesh and Fabric: The Raiment of the Passion in a Crucifixion by Pietro Lorenzetti, Jeffrey F. Hamburger explores the historical context of this panel as well as the subtleties of Pietro’s painting technique and iconographic imagination, enriching not only our understanding of one of the most innovative artists of the Trecento but also of Italian painting during one of its most generative periods. In addition to an iconographical analysis and historical contextualization of the panel, this volume includes a technical analysis that reveals the subtleties of the painting’s technique and reconstructs its original format, demonstrating that, from the start, this panel was a freestanding devotional image.
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The Flesh of Animation
Bodily Sensations in Film and Digital Media
Sandra Annett
University of Minnesota Press, 2024

How animation can reconnect us with bodily experiences
 

Film and media studies scholarship has often argued that digital cinema and CGI provoke a sense of disembodiment in viewers; they are seen as merely fantastic or unreal. In her in-depth exploration of the phenomenology of animation, Sandra Annett offers a new perspective: that animated films and digital media in fact evoke vivid embodied sensations in viewers and connect them with the lifeworld of experience. 

 

Starting with the emergence of digital technologies in filmmaking in the 1980s, Annett argues that contemporary digital media is indebted to the longer history of animation. She looks at a wide range of animation—from Disney films to anime, electro swing music videos to Vocaloids—to explore how animation, through its material forms and visual styles, can evoke bodily sensations of touch, weight, and orientation in space. Each chapter discusses well-known forms of animation from the United States, France, Japan, South Korea, and China, examining how they provoke different sensations in viewers, such as floating and falling in Howl’s Moving Castle and My Beautiful Girl Mari, and how the body is mediated in films that combine animation and live action, as seen in Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Song of the South. These films set the stage for an exploration of how animation and embodiment manifest in contemporary global media, from CGI and motion capture in Disney’s “live action remakes” to new media installations by artists like Lu Yang.

 

Leveraging an array of case studies through a new approach to film phenomenology, The Flesh of Animation offers an enlightening discussion of why animation provides a sensational experience for viewers not replicable through other media forms.

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From Stone to Flesh
A Short History of the Buddha
Donald S. Lopez Jr.
University of Chicago Press, 2013
We have come to admire Buddhism for being profound but accessible, as much a lifestyle as a religion. The credit for creating Buddhism goes to the Buddha, a figure widely respected across the Western world for his philosophical insight, his teachings of nonviolence, and his practice of meditation. But who was this Buddha, and how did he become the Buddha we know and love today?
 
Leading historian of Buddhism Donald S. Lopez Jr. tells the story of how various idols carved in stone—variously named Beddou, Codam, Xaca, and Fo—became the man of flesh and blood that we know simply as the Buddha. He reveals that the positive view of the Buddha in Europe and America is rather recent, originating a little more than a hundred and fifty years ago. For centuries, the Buddha was condemned by Western writers as the most dangerous idol of the Orient. He was a demon, the murderer of his mother, a purveyor of idolatry.
 
Lopez provides an engaging history of depictions of the Buddha from classical accounts and medieval stories to the testimonies of European travelers, diplomats, soldiers, and missionaries. He shows that centuries of hostility toward the Buddha changed dramatically in the nineteenth century, when the teachings of the Buddha, having disappeared from India by the fourteenth century, were read by European scholars newly proficient in Asian languages. At the same time, the traditional view of the Buddha persisted in Asia, where he was revered as much for his supernatural powers as for his philosophical insights. From Stone to Flesh follows the twists and turns of these Eastern and Western notions of the Buddha, leading finally to his triumph as the founder of a world religion.

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God, the Flesh, and the Other
From Irenaeus to Duns Scotus
Emmanuel Falque Translated from the French by William Christian Hackett
Northwestern University Press, 2015

In God, the Flesh, and the Other, the philosopher Emmanuel Falque joins the ongoing debate about the role of theology in phenomenology. An important voice in the second generation of French philosophy’s “theological turn,” Falque examines philosophically the fathers of the Church and the medieval theologians on the nature of theology and the objects comprising it. Falque works phenomenology itself into the corpus of theology. Theological concepts thus translate into philosophical terms that phenomenology should legitimately question: concepts from contemporary phenomenology such as onto-theology, appearance, reduction, body/flesh, inter-corporeity, the genesis of community, intersubjectivity, and the singularity of the other find penetrating analogues in patristic and medieval thought forged through millennia of Christological and Trinitarian debate, mystical discourses, and speculative reflection. Through Falque’s wide-ranging interpretive path, phenomenology finds itself interrogated—and renewed.

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In the Flesh
Embodied Identities in Roman Elegy
Erika Zimmermann Damer
University of Wisconsin Press, 2022
In the Flesh deeply engages postmodern and new materialist feminist thought in close readings of three significant poets—Propertius, Tibullus, and Ovid—writing in the early years of Rome's Augustan Principate. In their poems, they represent the flesh-and-blood body in both its integrity and vulnerability, as an index of social position along intersecting axes of sex, gender, status, and class. Erika Zimmermann Damer underscores the fluid, dynamic, and contingent nature of identities in Roman elegy, in response to a period of rapid legal, political, and social change.

Recognizing this power of material flesh to shape elegiac poetry, she asserts, grants figures at the margins of this poetic discourse—mistresses, rivals, enslaved characters, overlooked members of households—their own identities, even when they do not speak. She demonstrates how the three poets create a prominent aesthetic of corporeal abjection and imperfection, associating the body as much with blood, wounds, and corporeal disintegration as with elegance, refinement, and sensuality.
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Incarnation
A Philosophy of Flesh
Michel Henry; Translated from the French by Karl Hefty
Northwestern University Press, 2015
In his book Incarnation: A Philosophy of the Flesh, Michel Henry starts with the opposition of the sensible and living flesh, as we experience it permanently from the inside, to our inert and material body, as we can see it from the outside, similar to the other objects we can find in the world. The flesh doesn’t fit at all in his terminology with the soft part of our material and objective body, by opposition to the bones for example, but to what he called in his previous books our subjective body. For Michel Henry, an object doesn’t possess interiority, it is not living, it doesn’t feel itself and doesn’t feel that it is touched; it doesn’t do the subjective experience of being touched.

After having placed the difficult problem of the incarnation in an historical perspective going back to the thought of the Fathers of the Church, he makes in this book a critical review of the phenomenological tradition that leads to the reversal of phenomenology. He then proposes to elaborate a phenomenology of the flesh which leads to the notion of a not constituted original flesh given in the "Arch-revelation" of Life, as well as a phenomenology of Incarnation.

Although the flesh is traditionally understood as the place of sin, it is also in Christianity the place of salvation, which consists in the deification of man, that’s to say in the fact of becoming Son of God, to come back to the eternal and absolute Life we had forgotten getting lost in the world, caring only about things and ourselves. In the fault, we make the tragic experience of our powerlessness to do the good we would like to do and of our inability to avoid the evil. In this way in front of the magic body of the other, that’s the anguished desire to meet the life in it that leads to the fault. In the night of the lovers, the sexual act couples two impulsive movements, but the erotic desire fails to reach the pleasure of the other where it is experienced, in a total loving fusion. The erotic relation is however doubled by a pure affective relation, foreign to the carnal coupling, a relation made of mutual gratitude or of love. That’s this affective dimension that is denied in this way of violence that is pornography, which extracts the erotic relation from the pathos of life to abandon it to the world, and which consists in a real profanation of life.
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Introduction to Sacramental Theology
Signs of Christ in the Flesh
Jose Granados
Catholic University of America Press, 2021
Introduction to Sacramental Theology presents a complete overview of sacramental theology from the viewpoint of the body. This viewpoint is supported, in the first place, by Revelation, for which the sacraments are the place where we enter into contact with the body of the risen Jesus. It is a viewpoint, secondly, which is firmly rooted in our concrete human bodily experience, thus allowing for a strong connection between faith and life, creation and redemption. From this point of view, the treatise on the sacraments occupies a strategic role. For the sacraments appear, not as the last of a series of topics (after dealing with Creation, Christ, the Church), but as the original place in which to stand in order to contemplate the entire Christian mystery. This point of view of the body, which resonates with contemporary philosophy, sheds fruitful light on classical themes, such as the relationship of the sacraments with creation, the composition of the sacramental sign, the efficacy of the sacraments, the sacramental character, the role of the minister, or the relationship of the sacrament with the Church as a sacrament. As a result of this approach, the Eucharist takes on a central role, since this is the sacrament where the body of Jesus is made present. The rest of the sacraments are seen as prolongations of the eucharistic body, so as to fill all the time and space of the faithful. This foundation of the theology of the sacraments in eucharistic theology is supported by an analysis of the patristic and medieval tradition. In order to support its conclusions, Introduction to Sacramental Theology examines the doctrine of Scripture (especially St. John and St. Paul), the main patristic and medieval authors (St. Augustine, Hugh of St. Victor, St. Bonaventure, St. Thomas Aquinas), the response of Trent to the protestant challenges, up to modern authors such as Scheeben, Rahner, Ratzinger, or Chauvet, including the teaching of Vatican II about the Church as a kind of sacrament.
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Involuntary Confessions of the Flesh in Early Modern France
Nora Martin Peterson
University of Delaware Press, 2017

Involuntary Confessions of the Flesh in Early Modern France was inspired by the observation that small slips of the flesh (involuntary confessions of the flesh) are omnipresent in early modern texts of many kinds. These slips (which bear similarities to what we would today call the Freudian slip) disrupt and destabilize readings of body, self, and text—three categories whose mutual boundaries this book seeks to soften—but also, in their very messiness, participate in defining them. Involuntary Confessions capitalizes on the uncertainty of such volatile moments, arguing that it is instability itself that provides the tools to navigate and understand the complexity of the early modern world. Rather than locate the body within any one discourse (Foucauldian, psychoanalytic), this book argues that slips of the flesh create a liminal space not exactly outside of discourse, but not necessarily subject to it, either. Involuntary confessions of the flesh reveal the perpetual and urgent challenge of early modern thinkers to textually confront and define the often tenuous relationship between the body and the self. By eluding and frustrating attempts to contain it, the early modern body reveals that truth is as much about surfaces as it is about interior depth, and that the self is fruitfully perpetuated by the conflict that proceeds from seemingly irreconcilable narratives.

Interdisciplinary in its scope, Involuntary Confessions of the Flesh in Early Modern France pairs major French literary works of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (by Marguerite de Navarre, Montaigne, Madame de Lafayette) with cultural documents (confession manuals, legal documents about the application of torture, and courtly handbooks). It is the first study of its kind to bring these discourses into thematic (rather than linear or chronological) dialog. In so doing, it emphasizes the shared struggle of many different early modern conversations to come to terms with the body’s volatility.

Published by University of Delaware Press. Distributed worldwide by Rutgers University Press.
 

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Music in the Flesh
An Early Modern Musical Physiology
Bettina Varwig
University of Chicago Press, 2023
A corporeal history of music-making in early modern Europe.

Music in the Flesh reimagines the lived experiences of music-making subjects—composers, performers, listeners—in the long seventeenth century. There are countless historical testimonies of the powerful effects of music upon the early modern body; it is described as moving, ravishing, painful, dangerous, curative, and miraculous while affecting “the circulation of the humors, the purification of the blood, the dilation of the vessels and pores.”

How were these early modern European bodies constituted that music generated such potent bodily-spiritual effects? Bettina Varwig argues that early modern music-making practices challenge our modern understanding of human nature as a mind-body dichotomy. Instead, they persistently affirm a more integrated anthropology, in which body, soul, and spirit remain inextricably entangled. Moving with ease across repertories and regions, sacred and vernacular musics, and domestic and public settings, Varwig sketches a “musical physiology” that is as historically illuminating as it is relevant for present-day performance. This book makes a significant contribution not just to the history of music, but also to the history of the body, the senses, and the emotions, revealing music as a unique access point for reimagining early modern modes of being-in-the-world.
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Philology of the Flesh
John T. Hamilton
University of Chicago Press, 2018
As the Christian doctrine of Incarnation asserts, “the Word became Flesh.” Yet, while this metaphor is grounded in Christian tradition, its varied functions far exceed any purely theological import. It speaks to the nature of God just as much as to the nature of language.

In Philology of the Flesh, John T. Hamilton explores writing and reading practices that engage this notion in a range of poetic enterprises and theoretical reflections. By pressing the notion of philology as “love” (philia) for the “word” (logos), Hamilton’s readings investigate the breadth, depth, and limits of verbal styles that are irreducible to mere information. While a philologist of the body might understand words as corporeal vessels of core meaning, the philologist of the flesh, by focusing on the carnal qualities of language, resists taking words as mere containers.

By examining a series of intellectual episodes—from the fifteenth-century Humanism of Lorenzo Valla to the poetry of Emily Dickinson, from Immanuel Kant and Johann Georg Hamann to Friedrich Nietzsche, Franz Kafka, and Paul Celan—Philology of the Flesh considers the far-reaching ramifications of the incarnational metaphor, insisting on the inseparability of form and content, an insistence that allows us to rethink our relation to the concrete languages in which we think and live.
 
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Poetics of the Flesh
Mayra Rivera
Duke University Press, 2015
In Poetics of the Flesh Mayra Rivera offers poetic reflections on how we understand our carnal relationship to the world, at once spiritual, organic, and social. She connects conversations about corporeality in theology, political theory, and continental philosophy to show the relationship between the ways ancient Christian thinkers and modern Western philosophers conceive of the "body" and "flesh.” Her readings of the biblical writings of John and Paul as well as the work of Tertullian illustrate how Christian ideas of flesh influenced the works of Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Michel Foucault, and inform her readings of Judith Butler, Frantz Fanon, and others. Rivera also furthers developments in new materialism by exploring the intersections among bodies, material elements, social arrangements, and discourses through body and flesh. By painting a complex picture of bodies, and by developing an account of how the social materializes in flesh, Rivera provides a new way to understand gender and race.
 
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A Pound of Flesh
Monetary Sanctions as Punishment for the Poor
Alexes Harris
Russell Sage Foundation, 2016

Over seven million Americans are either incarcerated, on probation, or on parole, with their criminal records often following them for life and affecting access to higher education, jobs, and housing. Court-ordered monetary sanctions that compel criminal defendants to pay fines, fees, surcharges, and restitution further inhibit their ability to reenter society. In A Pound of Flesh, sociologist Alexes Harris analyzes the rise of monetary sanctions in the criminal justice system and shows how they permanently penalize and marginalize the poor. She exposes the damaging effects of a little-understood component of criminal sentencing and shows how it further perpetuates racial and economic inequality.

Harris draws from extensive sentencing data, legal documents, observations of court hearings, and interviews with defendants, judges, prosecutors, and other court officials. She documents how low-income defendants are affected by monetary sanctions, which include fees for public defenders and a variety of processing charges. Until these debts are paid in full, individuals remain under judicial supervision, subject to court summons, warrants, and jail stays. As a result of interest and surcharges that accumulate on unpaid financial penalties, these monetary sanctions often become insurmountable legal debts which many offenders carry for the remainder of their lives. Harris finds that such fiscal sentences, which are imposed disproportionately on low-income minorities, help create a permanent economic underclass and deepen social stratification.

A Pound of Flesh delves into the court practices of five counties in Washington State to illustrate the ways in which subjective sentencing shapes the practice of monetary sanctions. Judges and court clerks hold a considerable degree of discretion in the sentencing and monitoring of monetary sanctions and rely on individual values—such as personal responsibility, meritocracy, and paternalism—to determine how much and when offenders should pay. Harris shows that monetary sanctions are imposed at different rates across jurisdictions, with little or no state government oversight. Local officials’ reliance on their own values and beliefs can also push offenders further into debt—for example, when judges charge defendants who lack the means to pay their fines with contempt of court and penalize them with additional fines or jail time.

A Pound of Flesh provides a timely examination of how monetary sanctions permanently bind poor offenders to the judicial system. Harris concludes that in letting monetary sanctions go unchecked, we have created a two-tiered legal system that imposes additional burdens on already-marginalized groups.

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Presence in the Flesh
The Body in Medicine
Katharine Young
Harvard University Press, 1997

Any woman who has been examined by a gynecologist could tell Descartes a thing or two about the mind/body problem. Is her body an object? Is it the self? Is it both, and if so, how? Katharine Young takes up this problem in a book that looks at medicine's means of separating self and body--and at the body's ways of resisting.

Disembodiment--rendering the body an object and the self bodyless--is the foundational gesture of medicine. How, then, does medical practice acknowledge the presence of the person in the objectified body? Young considers in detail the "choreography" such a maneuver requires--and the different turns it takes during a routine exam, or surgery, or even an autopsy. Distinctions between public and private, inside and outside, assume new meanings as medical practice proceeds from one venue to the next--waiting room to examining table, anteroom to operating theater, from the body's exterior to its internal organs. Young inspects the management of these and other "boundaries"--as a physician adds layers of clothing and a patient removes layers, as the rules of objective and subjective discourse shift, as notions of intimacy determine the etiquette of exchanges between doctor and patient.

From embodied positions within the realm of medicine and disembodied positions outside it, Young richly conveys the complexity of presence in the flesh.

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Spirit, Structure, and Flesh
Gender and Power in Yoruba African Instituted Churches
Deidre Helen Crumbley
University of Wisconsin Press, 2008
Although popularized in Africa by Western missionaries, the Christian faith as practiced by Africans has acquired unique traits over time. Some of the most radical reinterpretations of Christianity are offered by those churches known as “AICs” (variously, African Initiated, African Instituted, or African Independent Churches)—new denominations founded by Africans skeptical of dogma offered by mainstream churches with roots in European empires. As these churches spread throughout the African diaspora, they have brought with them distinct practices relating to gender. Such practices range from the expectation that women avoid holy objects and sites during menstruation to the maintenance of church structures in which both men and women may be ordained and assigned the same duties and responsibilities.
            How does having a female body affect one’s experience of indigenized Christianity in Africa? Spirit, Structure, and Flesh addresses this question by exploring the ways ritual, symbol, and dogma circumscribe, constrain, and liberate women in AICs. Through detailed description of worship and doctrine, as well as careful analyses of church history and organizational processes, Deidre Helen Crumbley explores gendered experiences of faith and power in three Nigerian indigenous AICs, demonstrating the roles of women in the day-to-day life of these churches.
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Topologies of the Flesh
A Multidimensional Exploration of the Lifeworld
Steven M. Rosen
Ohio University Press, 2006

The concept of “flesh” in philosophical terms derives from the writings of Maurice Merleau-Ponty. This was the word he used to name the concrete realm of sentient bodies and life processes that has been eclipsed by the abstractions of science, technology, and modern culture. Topology, to conventional understanding, is the branch of mathematics that concerns itself with the properties of geometric figures that stay the same when the figures are stretched or deformed.

Topologies of the Flesh is an original blend of continental thought and mathematical imagination. Steven M. Rosen opens up a new area of philosophical inquiry: topological phenomenology. Through his unique application of qualitative mathematics, he extends the approaches of Merleau-Ponty and Heidegger so as to offer a detailed exploration of previously uncharted dimensions of human experience and the natural world.

Rosen’s unprecedented marriage of topology and phenomenology is motivated by the desire to help overcome the pervasive dualism of contemporary philosophy and Western culture at large. To carry this to completion, he must address his own dualistic stance as author. Challenging the author’s traditional posture of detachment and anonymity, Rosen makes his presence vividly felt in his final chapter, and his philosophical analysis is transformed into a living reality.

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Translations from the Flesh
Elton Glaser
University of Pittsburgh Press, 2013
Translations from the Flesh, Elton Glaser's seventh full-length collection of poetry, is driven by the powerful engines of love and desire. In poems long and brief, playful and intense, Glaser evokes what it feels like "to fall into / Love and its infinite mistakes." In a style that might be described as "flamboyant stoicism" (a phrase from Simon Callow,) he explores our human urgencies and weaknesses, following wherever our appetites lead us, whether hormonal or spiritual, cravings that we struggle to understand. The voice that says "Apprentice me to mysteries of the flesh" speaks for everyone intent on making sense of the body's restless yearning for fulfillment. These poems, with their witty brio and passionate precision of language, agree with Gerald Stern that "the brain / is the best organ for love." At the same time, they are not afraid to get down in the dirt, among the more primitive pleasures. Whatever their bent, from moony aspirations to "rare positions only the wicked know," the poems express Glaser's mission to give voice to those deep pressures that move us, body and soul: "I put my native tongue / To work, open to / The dark instincts of ecstasy."
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The World, the Flesh, and the Devil
A History of Colonial St. Louis
Patricia Cleary
University of Missouri Press, 2018
As Anglo-American colonists along the Atlantic seaboard began to protest British rule in the 1760s, a new settlement was emerging many miles west. St. Louis, founded simply as a French trading post, was expanding into a diverse global village. Few communities in eighteenth-century North America had such a varied population: indigenous Americans, French traders and farmers, African and Indian slaves, British officials, and immigrant explorers interacted there under the weak guidance of the Spanish governors. As the city’s significance as a hub of commerce grew, its populace became increasingly unpredictable, feuding over matters large and small and succumbing too often to the temptations of “the world, the flesh, and the devil.” But British leaders and American Revolutionaries still sought to acquire the area, linking St. Louis to the era’s international political and economic developments and placing this young community at the crossroads of empire.
With its colonial period too often glossed over in histories of both early America and the city itself, St. Louis merits a new treatment. The first modern book devoted exclusively to the history of colonial St. Louis, The World, the Flesh, and the Devil illuminates how its people loved, fought, worshipped, and traded. Covering the years from the settlement’s 1764 founding to its 1804 absorption into the young United States, this study reflects on the experiences of the village’s many inhabitants.
The World, the Flesh, and the Devil recounts important, neglected episodes in the early history of St. Louis in a narrative drawn from original documentary records. Chapters detail the official censure of the illicit union at the heart of St. Louis’s founding family, the 1780 battle that nearly destroyed the village, Spanish efforts to manage commercial relations between Indian peoples and French traders, and the ways colonial St. Louisans tested authority and thwarted traditional norms. Patricia Cleary argues that St. Louis residents possessed a remarkable willingness to adapt and innovate, which enabled them to survive the many challenges they faced.
The interior regions of the U.S. have been largely relegated to the margins of colonial American history, even though their early times were just as dynamic and significant as those that occurred back east. The World, the Flesh, and the Devil is an inclusive, wide-ranging, and overdue account of the Gateway city’s earliest years, and this engaging book contributes to a comprehensive national history by revealing the untold stories of Upper Louisiana’s capital.
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