On Seeing: Things Seen, Unseen and Obscene

On Seeing: Things Seen, Unseen and Obscene

by F. Gonzalez-Crussi
     
 

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Sight is almost unanimously regarded as the sense most vital to our day-to-day survival and awareness of the world around us. It is also the sense that dominates our subconscious and our dreams, and from the earliest efforts in the arts, painters and sculptors have explored the boundaries between these two states. In this elegantly written and probing examination of…  See more details below

Overview

Sight is almost unanimously regarded as the sense most vital to our day-to-day survival and awareness of the world around us. It is also the sense that dominates our subconscious and our dreams, and from the earliest efforts in the arts, painters and sculptors have explored the boundaries between these two states. In this elegantly written and probing examination of vision, award-winning author F. Gonzalez-Crussi explores the breadth of fascinating phenomena associated with seeing.

From ancient myth (Actaeon's illicit glimpse of the bathing Diana), to eighteenth-century France (when two voyeurs sparked a bloody anti-royalist riot on the Champs-de-Mars), to modern-day advances in microscopy and photography, Gonzalez-Crussi surveys the ways in which, through the sense of sight, perceiver and perceived are inextricably joined, each affecting the other in a profound way, and how our awareness of this union has led to millennia of curious preoccupations. With its spectacular breadth, insight, wit, and fascinating detail. On Seeing is a vastly entertaining book that enlarges our awareness of the world around us.

About the Author:
F. Gonzalez-Crussi is currently Professor Emeritus of Pathology at Northwestern University Medical School

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
What Oliver Sacks does for the mind, Gonzalez-Crussi (On Being Born and Other Difficulties) does for the eye in this captivating set of philosophical meditations on the relationship between the viewer and the viewed. The author, amused and amazed by our desire to see what is forbidden, draws on historical and cultural examples, from Actaeon spying on the goddess Diana to a pair of voyeurs in revolutionary France who unwittingly incite a massacre. Mixed in with such accounts are personal reflections drawn from medicine (Gonzalez-Crussi is professor emeritus of pathology at Northwestern's medical school). He is astounded, for example, at how many people have pestered him for access to an autopsy, just to say they'd seen one. The ornate sentences are filled with stunning images, like his description of an infant just emerged from the womb, bloody, "weakly flailing his arms" and crying, appearing to the author not as a symbol of life but as resembling "a foot-soldier in a defeated army, a pitiful survivor in a catastrophic retreat," and his prose never loses its elegance, even when the stories he tells veer into the bawdy. Not every anecdote resonates perfectly, but Gonzalez-Crussi is a charming raconteur who will win over readers with his thoughts on our visual connection to the world around us. 10 b&w illus. (Feb.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Pathologist-turned-author Gonzalez-Crussi (On Being Born, 2004, etc.) produces another astute series of essays on human mortality and the function of art, this time concerning the sense of sight. He begins his study with an exploration of "men's foremost visual taboo," tracing through history the complex male reaction to a glimpse of female genitalia: "allurement . . . commingled with the horrid fascination of death." Gonzalez-Crussi displays here a characteristic breadth of reading that spans recondite archives and modern-day newspaper reports. In "The Body as Will and Representation," the author observes that the desire to see the body inside and out leads to such disparate phenomena as the medical art of dissection and 19th-century Parisians' morbid delight in visiting the morgue, where cadavers were displayed to public view and onlookers could confront "the material embodiment of the Great Leveling that shall take place one day." "Seeing Is Believing, and Believing Is Seeing" moves from "last sights" (the religious images 16th-century priests held before the gaze of prisoners about to be executed) to inquiries into what exactly passes before the eyes of those on the verge of death, speculating that they may be looking at "the supreme mystery that lies, beckoning us all, in the infinite distance." "More Power to the Gaze" recounts ancient Mesopotamian and Greek theories about how the eyes derive their puissance-by sending out rays of inner "fire" toward an object, the Pythagoreans believed. In "Spectacular Vision: Three Ways of Looking at the Mirror," Gonzalez-Crussi offers examples of artists' fascination with reflected personality and duplication, from medieval painters to such19th-century writers as Poe and Dostoevsky. A final essay, "The Clinical Eye," explores the extension of the medical gaze, from psychoanalysis to microscopy. Intriguing and thoughtful work from a doctor and thinker as comfortable quoting Longfellow as discussing Charcot's cases at Salpetriere.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780715635360
Publisher:
Overlook Press, The
Publication date:
01/01/2006
Pages:
224

Meet the Author

F. Gonzalez-Crussi, M.D., is the head of laboratories at the Children's Memorial Hospital and a professor of pathology at Northwestern University. He is the author of Notes of an Anatomist, Three Forms of Sudden Death, On the Nature of Things Erotic, The Five Senses, The Day of the Dead, and Suspended Animation. He lives in Chicago.

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