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Title: Beyond skin : the exposed body and modern Scottish fiction
Author: Stark, Lynne
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2001
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This thesis examines the use of graphic corporeal imagery by an number of modern Scottish writers - Janice Galloway, A. L. Kennedy, Candia McWilliam, Alan Warner and Irvine Welsh - and reclaims such potentially offensive material as socially and thematically significant. Using Phillip A. Mellor and Chris Shilling’s notion of the Baroque modern body, I show in the first two chapters how scenes of pain, violence and sexual violation relate to, challenge and comment upon the cultural tensions surrounding the body in postmodern society. These tensions stem from two contradictory social impulses, the first towards intense cognitive control and denial of the body, the second towards physical release and greater sensual expression. The damaged or violated body is positioned at the precise point where these opposing tendencies meet. Violence towards the body may reflect a desire to disassociate oneself from the flesh, if not obliterate it altogether. Yet cutting, wounding or perforating the body renders it literally more substantial by exposing the bloodied mesh of tissue and tendon that lies beyond the skin. Paradoxically, many ‘harmful’ body practices force us to re-engage with the body. I trace this oscillation between disembodiment and re-embodiment across several novels in order to show how fictional representations of anorexia, sado-masochism and violence function as something more than simple metaphors of social dysfunction. The main argument of this study is that extreme physical episodes are often the catalysts for characters’ reintegration into existing social formations or even herald the creation of new forms of sociality based on sensual solidarities. Contemporary ‘transgressive’ body practices such as body piercing and tattooing highlight the transformative capacity of pain and violence. I discuss these in the final chapter.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available