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The Forgotten SenseMeditations on Touch$
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Pablo Maurette

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780226561332

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226561509.001.0001

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Torn to Pieces

Torn to Pieces

Chapter:
(p.56) Torn to Pieces
Source:
The Forgotten Sense
Author(s):

Pablo Maurette

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226561509.003.0003

"Torn to Piece" is a journey from Ancient Rome to the late 20th century, with stops in the European Renaissance and in Qing dynasty China, that takes place among the stacks of the Bibliotheque National in Paris. Its guiding thread is the problem of the body as a divisible organism, seen through the eyes of ancient atomist Lucretius. The essay then moves to Lucretius' first Renaissance readers, who were discovering the human body in anatomy theaters and seeing it disintegrate in periodic epidemics. From there it moves to the work of American photographer Joel-Peter Witkin, whose macabre images of severed limbs also offer a meditation on the fragility and divisibility of the human body. It all comes together in the work of sixteenth-century philosopher Giordano Bruno, an avid reader of Lucretius, who was sentenced to death to be burnt at the stake in Rome in 1600 for refusing to recant his materialistic beliefs.

Keywords:   Lucretius, Joel-Peter Witkin, syphilis, smallpox, lingchi, atomism, anatomy

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