Embodied: Victorian Literature and the Senses

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What does it mean to be human? British writers in the Victorian period found a surprising answer to this question. What is human, they discovered, is nothing more or less than the human body In literature of the period, as well as in scientific writing and journalism, the notion of an interior human essence came to be identified with the material existence of the body. The organs of sensory perception were understood as crucial routes of exchange between the interior and the external worlds.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Remarkable, rare, and full of elegant, ineluctable insights, Embodied is unfailingly smart.  Readers across many disciplines will grasp how the Victorians advanced ahead of postmodern dicta as they forged materialist thought, even when they talked in terms of mind and soul.  An exquisite study." —Kathryn Bond Stockton, University of Utah

"Victorian literature has seldom been more unsettlingly physical than it is in William Cohen’s hands. A tour de force of cultural phenomenology, Cohen’s Embodied shakes up our sense of the Victorians and so refreshes our senses themselves." —Joseph Litvak, Tufts University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780816650125
  • Publisher: University of Minnesota Press
  • Publication date: 12/15/2008
  • Pages: 182
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Table of Contents


1 Subject: Embodiment and the Senses

2 Self: Material Interiority in Dickens and Bronte

3 Skin: Surface and Sensation in Trollope's "The Banks of the Jordan"

4 Senses: Face and Feeling in Hardy's The Return of the Native

5 Soul: Inside Hopkins




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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 13, 2009

    Interesting for the general reader, not so useful for students/scholars

    I read this book for a research project and, on an academic level, was disappointed. Cohen's discussions are interesting, particularly when he provides readings of Victorian texts. However, because there is work out there that contradicts his argument, he needed to take that on before asserting his own findings in order for that argument to be persuasive. The important debates on physiology and materialism in the 19th century need to provide the context and background for Cohen's ideas; I think he leads non-experts astray a bit by leaving so much of these out.

    This is not an exhaustive study, by any means. There are several places where ideas beg to be pushed further--particularly when Cohen brings up the usefulness of his ideas in relation to queer theory. Beyond the comment itself, he doesn't discuss queer theory at all. Overall, while the readings themselves are fascinating and enjoyable, the argumentative framework for them is often weak. The book as a whole is written as though Cohen wishes to begin a conversation with it, but the enormous volume of work already done on embodiment, physiology, etc. (much of it in his bibliography), demonstrates that this critical discussion has been going on for quite some time.

    If you're an academic, this text may not be that useful for you. If, however, you are a general reader interested in embodiment and the Victorian period, this text will probably be pretty interesting and useful. I would just recommend supplementing it with a more comprehensive text on Victorian theories of the mind/body, such as _Metaphors of Mind in Fiction and Psychology_ by Michael S. Kearns; or _Victorian Psychology and British Culture, 1850-1880_ by Rick Rylance.

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