The desire to know the body is a powerful dynamic of storytelling in all its forms. Peter Brooks argues that modern narrative is intent on uncovering the body in order to expose a truth that must be written in the flesh. In a book that ranges widely through literature and painting, Brooks shows how the imagination strives to bring the body into language and to write stories on the body.
From Rousseau, Balzac, Mary Shelley, and Flaubert, to George Eliot, Zola, Henry James, and Marguerite Duras, from Manet and Gauguin to Mapplethorpe, writers and artists have returned in fascination to the body, the inescapable other of the spirit. Brooks's deep understanding of psychoanalysis informs his demonstration of how the "epistemophilic urge"--the desire to know-guides fictional plots and our reading of them.
It is the sexual body that furnishes the building blocks of symbolization, eventually of language itself-which then takes us away from the body. Yet mind and language need to recover the body, as an other realm that is primary to their very definition. Brooks shows how and why the female body has become the field upon which the aspirations, anxieties, and contradictions of a whole society are played out. And he suggests how writers and artists have found in the woman's body the dynamic principle of their storytelling, its motor force.
This major book entertains and teaches: Brooks presumes no special knowledge on the part of his readers. His account proceeds chronologically from Rousseau in the eighteenth century forward to contemporary artists and writers. Body Work gives us a set of analytical tools and ideas-primarily from psychoanalysis, narrative and film studies, and feminist theory-that enable us to read modern narrative afresh.
Carol Weisbrod uses a variety of stories to raise important questions about how society, through law, defines relationships in the family. Beginning with a story most familiar from the opera Madame Butterfly, Weisbrod addresses issues such as marriage, divorce, parent-child relations and abuses, and non-marital intimate contact. Each chapter works with fiction or narratives inspired by biography or myth, ranging from the Book of Esther to the stories of Kafka. Weisbrod frames the book with running commentary on variations of the Madame Butterfly story, showing the ways in which fiction better expresses the complexities of intimate lives than does the language of the law.
Butterfly, the Bride looks at law from the outside, using narrative to provide a fresh perspective on the issues of law and social structure---and individual responses to law. This book thoroughly explores relationships between inner and public lives by examining what is ordinarily classified as the sphere of private life---the world of family relationships.
Carol Weisbrod is Ellen Ash Peters Professor of Law at the University of Connecticut. Her other books include The Boundaries of Utopia and Emblems of Pluralism.