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Receptive Bodies$
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Leo Bersani

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780226579627

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226579931.001.0001

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(p.106) 6 Staring
Receptive Bodies

Leo Bersani

University of Chicago Press

This chapter analyzes whether staring is relational or not. The frightening thing about staring is a person's total withdrawal at such moments—their compelling yet somehow wholly absent presence. It was not a question of idleness, of a more or less deliberate refusal to engage with things, or a sensually pleasing indulgence in doing nothing—the person had become unreachable. The world was fully present, fully visible, but somehow not there; it had become possible to look fixedly at it without seeing it. The chapter explains how staring may be the only nonrelational relation humans can visibly, corporeally have in a world in which they no longer are. The feeling inherent in this encompassing nonbeing at the heart of being can perhaps be called melancholy.

Keywords:   staring, withdrawal, relation, nonbeing, melancholy, idleness

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