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Flesh and Stone: The Body and the City in Western Civilization

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Overview

This vivid history of the city in Western civilization tells the story of urban life through bodily experience.Flesh and Stone is the story of the deepest parts of life—how women and men moved in public and private spaces, what they saw and heard, the smells that assailed them, where they ate, how they dressed, the mores of bathing and of making love—all in the architecture of stone and space from ancient Athens to modern New York.
Early in Flesh and Stone, Richard Sennett probes the ways in which the ancient Athenians experienced nakedness, and the relation of nakedness to the shape of the ancient city, its troubled politics, and the inequalities between men and women. The story then moves to Rome in the time of the Emperor Hadrian, exploring Roman beliefs in the geometrical perfection of the body.
The second part of the book examines how Christian beliefs about the body related to the Christian city—the Venetian ghetto, cloisters, and markets in Paris. The final part of Flesh and Stone deals with what happened to urban space as modern scientific understanding of the body cut free from pagan and Christian beliefs. Flesh and Stone makes sense of our constantly evolving urban living spaces, helping us to build a common home for the increased diversity of bodies that make up the modern city.

This completely unique history tells the story of urban life over 2,500 years through the bodily experience of men and women: what sights, smells, and noises they took in, how they dressed, how they made love, when they bathed, and more--in great cities from ancient Athens to modern New York.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Review of Books
An enthralling subject. . . . A compassionate and inquiring [book].— Richard Jenkyns
Chicago Tribune
“Fascinating . . . the drama of urban life springs alive for the reader.”
Washington Post Book World
“Flesh and Stone is a fascinating excursion with an erudite guide. Sennett writes with intelligence and grace. . . .”
Richard Jenkyns - New York Review of Books
“An enthralling subject. . . . A compassionate and inquiring [book].”
New York Review of Books - Richard Jenkyns
“An enthralling subject. . . . A compassionate and inquiring [book].”
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Sennett (The Fall of Public Man) has produced an engrossing history of the city told through its people's movements: how they dressed, bathed and made love, where they ate, what they saw and heard. He first examines Athenians' celebration of nakedness and the Romans' use of geometrical images derived from the human body to impose order on their imperial realm. Next he brings us to the 13th-century Paris of Notre Dame Cathedral, where burgeoning enterprises challenged the Christian sense of place and community. A New York Univeristy sociologist, Sennett discusses the creation of Venice's Jewish ghetto in the 16th century, then links William Harvey's discoveries about blood circulation to individualized movement and bodily freedom in revolutionary 18th-century Paris. In the modern multicultural metropolis, he says the buildings contribute to a lack of emotional connection, as well as monotony and sensory deprivation. Sennett forces us to rethink architecture, social history and urban design and planning. Photos. (Sept.)
Library Journal
Sennett (sociology, NYU) has constructed a truly unique study of the human history of cities. He tackles the history of the development of the city in terms of the human body's function and perception. He describes the city's activities in the terminology of physiology (i.e., veins, arteries), in political terms (i.e., class, race), and through other labeling and divisive terms. His examination includes city plans, architectural design and public transportation, and the movement of peoples. Sennett's examples span the continuum of Western civilization. He explores the concept of the body in Athens, Rome, Paris, Venice, London, and New York. His prose is direct and accessible to even the most beginning student. However, his "body" metaphors at times stray from his purpose, diluting his otherwise fascinating presentation. Recommended for academic libraries and only larger public libraries.-Jenny Presnell, Miami Univ. Libs., Oxford, Ohio
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393313918
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 3/28/1996
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 432
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard Sennett teaches sociology at the London School of Economics and New York University

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments 11
Introduction: Body and City 15
1 The Passive Body 16
2 The Plan of the Book 21
3 A Personal Note 26
Ch. 1 Nakedness: The Citizen's Body in Perikles' Athens 31
1 The Citizen's Body 35
2 The Citizen's Voice 52
Ch. 2 The Cloak of Darkness: The Protections of Ritual in Athens 68
1 The Powers of Cold Bodies 70
2 The Suffering Body 82
Ch. 3 The Obsessive Image: Place and Time in Hadrian's Rome 87
1 Look and Believe 92
2 Look and Obey 101
3 The Impossible Obsession 121
Ch. 4 Time in the Body: Early Christians in Rome 124
1 The Alien Body of Christ 125
2 Christian Places 134
3 Nietzsche's Hawks and Lambs 146
Ch. 5 Community: The Paris of Jehan de Chelles 151
1 "Stadt Luft macht frei" 151
2 The Compassionate Body 159
3 The Christian Community 170
Ch. 6 "Each Man Is a Devil to Himself": The Paris of Humbert de Romans 186
1 Economic Space 188
2 Economic Time 200
3 The Death of Icarus 207
Ch. 7 Fear of Touching: The Jewish Ghetto in Renaissance Venice 212
1 Venice as a Magnet 217
2 The Walls of the Ghetto 222
3 A Shield But Not a Sword 241
4 The Miraculous Lightness of Freedom 249
Ch. 8 Moving Bodies: Harvey's Revolution 255
1 Circulation and Respiration 255
2 The Mobile Individual 271
3 The Crowd Moves 275
Ch. 9 The Body Set Free: Boullee's Paris 282
1 Freedom in Body and Space 285
2 Dead Space 296
3 Festival Bodies 304
Ch. 10 Urban Individualism: E. M. Forster's London 317
1 The New Rome 317
2 Modern Arteries and Veins 324
3 Comfort 338
4 The Virtue of Displacement 349
Civic Bodies: Multi-Cultural New York 355
1 Difference and Indifference 355
2 Civic Bodies 370
Notes 377
Works Cited 399
Index 415
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