Portraits of Violence: War and the Aesthetics of Disfigurement

Portraits of Violence: War and the Aesthetics of Disfigurement

by Suzannah Biernoff

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Overview


Portraits of Violence explores the image and idea of facial disfigurement in one of its most troubling modern formations, as a symbol and consequence of war. It opens with Nina Berman’s iconic photograph Marine Wedding, which provoked a debate about the medical, military, and psychological response to serious combat injuries. While these issues remain urgent, it is equally crucial to interrogate the representation of war and injury. The concepts of valor, heroism, patriotism, and courage assume visible form and do their cultural work when they are personified and embodied. The mutilated or disabled veteran’s body can connote the brutalizing, dehumanizing potential of modern combat.
 
Suzannah Biernoff draws on a wide variety of sources mainly from WWI but also contemporary photography and computer games. Each chapter revolves around particular images: Marine Wedding is discussed alongside Stuart Griffiths’ portraits of British veterans; Henry Tonks’ drawings of WWI facial casualties are compared to the medical photographs in the Gillies Archives; the production of portrait masks for the severely disfigured is approached through the lens of documentary film and photography; and finally the haunting image of one of Tonks’s patients reappears in BioShock, a highly successful computer game. The book simultaneously addresses a neglected area in disability studies; puts disfigurement on the agenda for art history and visual studies; and makes a timely and provocative contribution to the literature on the First World War.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780472130290
Publisher: University of Michigan Press
Publication date: 03/28/2017
Series: Corporealities: Discourses Of Disability Series
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author


Suzannah Biernoff is Senior Lecturer in Modern and Contemporary Visual Culture at Birkbeck, University of London.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii

Introduction 1

1 The Elusive Portrait 25

2 Aversion: A History 55

3 Repairing War's Ravages 81

4 Flesh Poems 114

5 The Afterlife of Henry Lumley 138

Conclusion 164

Notes 171

Works Cited 197

Index 207

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