Embodying the Monster: Encounters with the Vulnerable Self


Margrit Shildrick

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    List of Illustrations

    • 1.1 Human twins conjoined at the head, born at Worms in 1495 (Sébastien Brandt) from Aesculape, 1993, Vol. 1 14
    • 1.2 Some members of the Monstrous Races in Cosmographiae universalis, lib. VI (Munster 1554) 15
    • 1.3 The Monster of Ravenna in De monstrorum caussis, natura, et differentis(Licetus 1634) 18
    • 3.1 The Monster of Cracow in De monstrorum caussis, natura, et differentis(Licetus 1634) 52
    • 3.2 Chang and Eng, the Siamese Twins, photographed in 1860 (Source unknown) 57
    • 3.3 Lazarus and John Baptista Coloredo from The Gentlemen's Magazine(1777) 64
    • 3.4 The Bengali Boy (Basire) from The Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society 80 (1790) 65
    • 4.1 Conjoined twins from Still Life (Karl Grimes 1997) 70

    Figure 1.1, copyright ISHM, is reproduced courtesy of the International Society for the History of Medicine (ISHM) and supplied by the Wellcome Library, London; Figures 3.2, 3.3 and 3.4 are reproduced courtesy of the Wellcome Library, London; Figure 1.1 with the permission of the governors and guardians of Marsh's Library, Dublin; Figures 1.3 and 3.1 courtesy of Liverpool Medical Institution; Figure 4.1 courtesy of the artist and the Gallery of Photography, Dublin.


    The genesis and successful completion of Embodying the Monster relies, as does every publication, on a wide number of colleagues and friends – though some may remain unaware of its existence – as well as on various forms of institutional support. On the formal level, I am very grateful to Staffordshire University for giving me a three-year research fellowship that has allowed me to concentrate full-time on this and related projects, and for providing sufficient funding for me to attend several important conferences where initial papers were tested out. I should also like to thank the organisers of a number of seminar series and conferences held under the auspices of the Institute of Women's Studies at Lancaster University where I have had the opportunity of many stimulating discussions about both my own work and that of others. Thanks too to the feminist academics in Australia who welcomed my participation at their own conferences and seminars and provided some invaluable responses to my ideas. It would be too restrictive to name any individuals here, but I hope that all those involved feel acknowledged. On a more practical level, I'd like to register my gratitude for continuing support from the Department of Primary Care at University of Liverpool where I have come and gone over many years, initially as a student of bioethics, then as a part-time lecturer, and finally as an honorary research fellow.

    Turning to more personal matters, it is perhaps even harder to supply any list that does full justice to the many people who provided critical and supportive input. Some have been directly involved with aspects of the text, while others have given equally valuable emotional backup. I particularly want to thank Janet Price, who has been heroic both in her willingness to read a complete draft on top of previous exposure to several of the discrete papers that became chapters, and in her unwavering friendship. Lis Davidson too has probably heard almost every word, though in a less organised way, and my thanks to her extend far beyond the academic. I'm not sure it's possible to make a firm distinction between intellectual and personal engagement, so I'll mention indiscriminately several others who've given their backing one way or another. Thanks variously to Maggie O'Neill and Ruth Holliday, and other current colleagues, who eased my way in a new job; to Joanna Hodge, who unknowingly set the whole project in motion, to enduring friends Liz MacGarvey and Grindl Dockery who always bring fresh perspectives; to Ailbhe Smyth for those all-important invitations; to Sara Ahmed for several years of difficult but productive questions; and to Mike Featherstone who published some early papers and asked for the book.

    As I've indicated, some of the text has already appeared as discrete papers or chapters in books edited by others. Most, however, have been heavily reworked and often split between two or more chapters in the present book, making it difficult to give exact acknowledgments. Incorporated work has previously appeared in the journals Body & Society, Journal of Medical Humanities, Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, and Rethinking History; and in the edited collections Transformations (Routledge 2000), Body Modification (Sage 2000), Thinking Through the Skin (Routledge 2001), Beliefs, Bodies and Being (Rowman Littlefield 2001), and Contagion: Cultural and Historical Studies (Routledge 2001).

  • Notes

    1. The work of Butler (1993) and Grosz (1994) clearly qualify as exceptional in this respect, yet there is little sense that either speaks directly to the body as it is lived in its flesh and blood materiality.

    2. Discourse, as I use it, is not simply a matter of language, but a set of what Haraway calls ‘material-semiotic practices through which objects of attention and knowing subjects are both constituted’ (1997: 218).

    3. The question of the specific social and political contexts in which the term ‘monstrous’ is and has been deployed is far from insignificant, but is beyond the scope of my necessarily limited enquiry. In choosing to focus on ontological and ethical issues, I have done little more than consistently flag the analytics of race, sexual difference, disability, and other discourses of difference. Each is highly specific and deserves extensive attention in its own right, and in the present work I hope to extend and complicate the framework in which that might take place.

    4. Derrida makes the apt and approving suggestion that the hybridisation of heterogeneous textual bodies ‘may be called a monster’ (1995b: 385).

    1. The Renaissance Monster of Ravenna is best known today through the work of the French surgeon and writer Ambroise Paré (c. 1510–90). I look more closely at the figure later in this chapter.

    2. As I discuss in the next chapter, the doctrine of maternal imagination was widely accepted in the latter half of the sixteenth century, and was subsequently the subject of rigorous debate for at least another 150 years. Believers held that the pregnant woman might transmit to her foetus a mark both of her own somatic experiences, and of her thoughts and desires. See Marie Hélène Huet (1993) for a detailed exposition of the connection between maternal imagination and monstrosity.

    3. In this one tale, Bateman's plagiarising of Lycosthenes (1557) is closely mirrored in Fenton's 1569 translation of Boaistuau (1560) who in turn had referenced Sebastian Munster who claimed to have witnessed the monster in 1501.

    4. For a comprehensive summary and analysis of Pliny's account, see Friedman The Monstrous Races in Medieval Art and Thought (1981).

    5. It is unlikely that the putative traveller, Sir John Mandeville, ever existed, and the English language version of the work is a translation of a French author who himself draws on several prior sources such as pilgrim guides to the Holy Land. The tale was, nonetheless, extremely popular and by 1500 had been translated into many European languages.

    6. In Freaks, Leslie Fiedler, citing twentieth-century tales of the Asian yeti and North American sasquatch, carries the argument up to date: ‘Even in our own time, we have not given up trying to persuade ourselves that monstrous races inhabit the remote places of this earth, rather than of our own deep psyches’ (1981: 239). And Cohen himself makes clear the links with contemporary preoccupations: ‘Ultima Thule, Ethiopia, and the Antipodes were the medieval equivalents of outer space and virtual reality, imaginary (wholly verbal) geographies accessible from anywhere, never meant to be discovered, but always waiting to be explored’ (1996: 18).

    7. See Park and Daston (1981) for an opposing view.

    8. See Pallister's Appendix to her translation of On Monsters and Marvels (Paré 1982), and similar moves in Longo (1995), and Walton et al. (1993).

    9. The point was that the material condition of monstrosity did not in itself preclude redemption. In furtherance of his case, Augustine believed that at the Resurrection, God would restore monsters in perfect human form (City of God, 1972).

    10. See Chapter 6 for further commentary on this figure.

    11. For historically varying yet situated explanations see, for example, Park and Daston (1981), Daston (1991), Pingree (1996), and Thomson (1996, 1997). Also Tudor (1995) who links specific developments in the cinematic monstrous with transformations in late modern society.

    12. See Jonathan Sawday, who notes: ‘Imitation…orders the body, the world and the heavens into a pattern of replication, in which each component of the system finds its precise analogical equivalent in every other component’ (1995: 23). Yet neither the system of affinities, nor the Cartesian model of the mechanistic body which partially replaced it, was sufficient to ensure certain corporeal knowledge. As Sawday remarks, ‘(the) triumphant overthrow of body-fear never took place’ (1995: 37).

    13. The doctrine of preformation held that the infant body was already present in all its parts – in miniature – in either every sperm or every egg; while epigenesis held that the embryo developed structurally in utero from the progressive differentiation of cells, and that the process required the input of both sperm and egg.

    14. In using the term ‘congenital disability’, I am aware that many contemporary theorists and activists would prefer the word ‘impairment’. See for example Carol Thomas' discussion in Female Forms (1999). Nonetheless, for reasons that would be too lengthy to explain here, my own postmodernist approach, combined with the desire not to obscure the phenomenology of the lived body as a social and psychical/material experience, leads me to prefer the more familiar terminology. For a more detailed exposition, see Shildrick and Price (1996) and Price and Shildrick (1998).

    15. The prestigious Royal Society, chartered in 1660 and operative in Great Britain, was preceded and paralleled by the French institutions of Bureau d'Adresse (1633–42) and the subsequent Académie Royale des Sciences, set up in 1666. Other influential groupings of the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries include the College of Physicians (later the Royal College), the Athenian Society, publishers of the Athenian Gazette, and the group around Le Journal des Savants in France. Each of these groupings was concerned to investigate the monstrous from an initially Baconian perspective. See Park and Daston (1981) for further details on the setting up of the Royal Society in explicit part response to Bacon's tripartite schema for a natural history which gave the investigation of the monstrous co-equal ranking.

    16. See also The Shows of London (Altick 1978) for a broader historical and cultural view of the monster as spectacle, and The Mystery and Lore of Monsters (Thompson 1930), reprinted in 1996 as The History and Lore of Freaks.

    17. After being brought to Europe from southern Africa, the unfortunate Sarah Bartmann was displayed both as a freak for entertainment, and as an object of scientific study. Her body was extensively investigated both in life and after her death, in an attempt to pin down and categorise her otherness. But as Anne Fausto-Sterling (1995) makes clear, her bodily differences were constructed in line with existing paradigms of knowledge, and what was at stake in the scientific gaze was an insecurity about race and gender. See also Bernth Lindfors (1996), whose review of ethnographical show business details Bartmann's British appearances, together with those of a similar group of San people known as the ‘Bosjemans’. In each case, differences in appearance and in speech from European norms were taken as evidence of racial degeneracy.

    18. The missing evolutionary link between apes and human beings was a preoccupation of the later part of the century, when various individual candidates appeared both in freak shows and in scientific forums. See, for example, Nigel Rothfels, ‘Aztecs, Aborigines, and Ape-People’ (1996) for an account of the phenomenon in Germany.

    For a fuller account of the flexibility of categorisation evidenced by ‘What is It?’ and of its relation to the volatile racial politics of mid-nineteenth-century America, see James W. Cook (1996). It is known that the figure of ‘What is It?’ was played by at least two different actors, one black and the other white.

    19. For an account and critical analysis of such beliefs see Aliens in America (Dean 1998).

    20. I am grateful to Janet Price for bringing Derrida's speech ‘The State of the Lie; The Lie of the State’ (1997) at Delhi University to my attention.

    1. See Friedman (1981) for a detailed discussion.

    2. I use the word différance in its Derridean sense to signal the deferral of meaning and identity, and the extent to which ‘each allegedly “simple term” is marked by the trace of another term, the presumed interiority of meaning is already worked upon by its own exteriority’ (Derrida 1981b: 33).

    3. For a somewhat different view of the horror of vampires, see Nina Auerbach (1995), who sees the image of the female vampiric predator as ‘relatively respectable’ in turn of the century culture.

    4. A similar move, again, is made in relation to black bodies whose very presence is contaminatory. The centring of the AIDS epidemic as a phenomenon that has leaked out of Africa (originally Haiti) is just the latest expression of the imagery of infection and pollution that spreads from the other to disrupt the same.

    5. The account subsequently appeared in the Society's abridged publication of its own proceedings. See Timothy Sheldrake (1747: 313–14) ‘Concerning a Monstrous Child Born of a Woman under Sentence of Transportation’.

    6. Although Culpeper (1616–54) and Maubray were not contemporaries, the former's manual, first published in 1651, went through several editions in the eighteenth century, indicating its continuing popularity.

    7. I mention this in illustration of the point that the coherence of archival narrative is threatened, as Kaplan notes, ‘by showing on what thin strands of coincidence, accident, or on what unfair forms of friendship, ownership, geographical proximity, the discoveries (are) based’. See Alice Yaeger Kaplan (1990: 104) ‘Working in the Archives’.

    8. See for example: Augustine City of God (1972); Conrades Lycosthenes Prodigiorum ac ostentorum chronicon quae praeter naturae ordinem (1557); Stephen Bateman The Doome Warning all Men to the Iudgemente: Wherein Are Contayned for the Most Parte All the Straunge Prodigies hapned in the Worlde (1581). A good summary of shifting accounts is offered by Lorraine Daston 1991.

    9. Roy Porter claims that Venette's manual of sexual practice and mores was the most popular of its kind in the French-speaking world of the eighteenth century, and was in addition translated into four other languages. See Porter 1984. Venette himself was actually an anti-imaginationist, and was merely outlining the views of others.

    10. See Barbara Stafford's account of Malebranche's influence, in Body Criticism (1991: 313–14). It should be remembered, nonetheless, that the discussion of maternal impressions occupies a relatively small part of a wider discussion of the imagination in Malebranche's work.

    11. For a detailed account of the debate see Philip K. Wilson (1992) ‘Out of Sight, Out of Mind?’ pp. 63–85.

    12. Alongside such learned disputes, lay interest in the very same issues persisted in the media of popular midwifery books and natural histories, and in broadsheets and ballads sold on the street or at fairs. See, for example, the apocryphal Aristotle's Works: Containing the Masterpiece, Directions for Midwives, and Counsel and Advice to Child-bearing Women, with Various Useful Remedies (n.d.); and Buffon's Natural History of 1767, in its English version (1828). Both learned and lay works were often translated into several languages.

    13. The same list also appears in Blondel's first response to Turner, The Strength of Imagination in Pregnant Women Examined (Blondel 1727).

    14. It is somewhat unclear whether Blondel's belief in emboitment was spermist or ovist. In his 1727 text, he seems to accept the former: ‘By what right has the mother's fancy any influence upon the body of the foetus when it comes from the Semen virile. … If the Father could not cause…any change in the animalcule which was originally in his Body, I desire to know why the Mother should plead that privilege’ (1727: 47); whereas by 1729, as the quotation I use in my text makes clear, the latter is strongly implied. Nonetheless, it appears that although Blondel toyed with ovism as suggested by Regnier de Graaf's work on the ovarian follicule, he favoured Antoni van Loewenhoek's spermatic explanation. The problem for believers was that emboitment in the spermatozoa implied an enormous wastage of potentially viable foetuses.

    15. The incidence of such frauds is well documented. The notorious case of Mary Toft who, in 1726, claimed to have given birth to seventeen rabbits by reason of maternal passions before confessing to fraud was widely satirised and is said by Blondel to have inspired his original pamphlet. For a full account and convincing analysis of the implications and significance of the case, see Dennis Todd 1995.

    16. Remnants of the belief persist, however, even in the nineteenth century, as evidenced by random letters to respected medical journals. See for example, the credulous letter headed ‘Maternal Impressions’ in the Lancet, 4 July 1863: 27.

    17. It would be difficult to say that the power of maternal imagination was ever entirely discounted in lay discourse. Certainly one popular explanation for the appearance of the so-called elephant man, John Merrick, towards the end of the nineteenth century was that his mother had been startled by a circus elephant. See the account in the popular and somewhat salacious Victorian text, Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine (Gould and Pyke 1897: 81). In a similar vein, and in common with many other freak show performers, Lionel the lion-faced man – a famous exhibit of P.T. Barnum – assured audiences that his mother had witnessed a terrible sight, specifically his father being torn apart by lions. See Fiedler 1981: 167.

    18. See Todd 1995 and Huet 1993.

    19. Many further parallels might be explored, not least the function of the trace. (My thanks to Alun Munslow for suggesting the initial link.)

    20. The Reith Lectures, which are broadcast every year by the BBC, are a series of six lectures usually addressing contemporary issues and aimed at lay-people.

    21. The theme of bodily contamination is in any case neatly turned on its head when the scientists decide that Sil has rejected one would-be mate on the grounds that he has a congenital defect. The monster too appears to have fragile boundaries.

    1. The argument is established in feminist critique as diverse as Genevieve Lloyd's The Man of Reason (1984) and Luce Irigaray's Speculum of the Other Woman (1985a).

    2. This is no small matter, for invasion, either corporeal or psychic, is one of our greatest fears. Indeed the whole genre of horror stories, to which the monstrous is clearly related, might be said to be fundamentally about invasion. As Creed puts it: ‘The possessed or invaded being is a figure of abjection in that the boundary between self and other has been transgressed’ (1993: 32). It will strike us, nonetheless, that there is something odd about a fear that effectively denies the maternal–foetal connection. We all once were concorporate with another, and some of us, as mothers, have experienced the sharing of bodies in pregnancy. Yet it is precisely that archaic link that constitutes the abject.

    3. Julia Epstein (1995) offers an extensive discussion of the significance of hermaphrodism and related genital ‘disorders’ in the early modern period.

    4. See Londa Schiebinger (1993) on the social and medical fascination with such differences in the context of racial categorisation.

    5. Estimates of the incidence of conjoined twins vary from 1 in 50,000 to 1 in 100,000. The first successful operation in which both twins survived was not carried out until 1953 in the US.

    6. Aristotle implies in De generatione animalium that all twins are monstrous. In justification of this apparently extreme position, Thijssen reminds us: ‘By monsters, Aristotle does not just mean creatures which, due to some pathological process, are misshapen, but, much more generally, all creatures which are out of the ordinary in the sense that they are not the result of the common course of Nature’ (1987: 240). Surprisingly, then, the Biddenden Maids – reputedly born in Kent in 1100 – may be the exception to the rule that conjoined twins are certainly monstrous. Tradition has it that they led an exemplary Christian life, and on their death at the age of thirty-four endowed a charity for the needy of the parish. It should be remembered too, that the monstrous does not always imply negativity. Fenton's reference to a child with doubled limbs is, for example, entitled, ‘A Wonderful Historie of a monstrous childe, which was borne the same day that the Genervois and Venicians were reconciled’ (1569: 135). In a similar vein, Thomas Bedford's sermon on the birth of conjoined twins eulogises their metaphorical relation to the Christian body: ‘Surely these are not more nearly conjoined in breast and belly than christians ought to be in heart and affection’ (1635: n.p.).

    7. Merleau-Ponty (1964) takes a less deterministic view of the mirror stage, in which the inauguration of difference is always offset by a continuing mutuality of being-in-the-world with others.

    8. Interestingly, what Schwartz labels ‘the myth of the vanished twin…the notion that each of us may once have had a living copy’ (1996: 24) appears to have some clinical justification. Schwartz indicates research which suggests that as many as a quarter of singleton births may originally have been twin conceptions (1996: 20), with the possibility that the weaker foetus is absorbed into its twin in the early stages of pregnancy. Indeed, the idea of bodies that leak and flow into one another is a familiar part of the modern language of embryology, and is only gradually displaced by reference to the apparent certainty of organic boundaries.

    9. Although on one level the oneness of such twins may appal, on another they may be an attractive, albeit uneasy, reminder of the lost pre-subjectal plenitude of undifferentiated infant/maternal corporeality.

    10. In analysing a number of recent accounts of conjunction and concorporation, I am aware that my approach traverses ground that will have highly personal meanings to surviving twins and their families. None of the material I use is outside the public domain, and some has been very deliberately given wide circulation, but in addition to safeguards already incorporated into the original texts, I have taken the step of withholding potentially identifying surnames. Nonetheless, I remain conscious that the significances I wish to elicit may be in tension with authorised interpretations, and want to stress that my primary concern is not with the specific material circumstances of the twins as such. Emphatically, the issue is not to offer judgement on any of those involved in the varying accounts, but to investigate the nature of the ontological and ethical responses.

    11. Since I finished this chapter, the highly publicised case of the Maltese conjoined twins, born in the UK in 2000, has brought some of the issues I discuss to a wider audience. Known as Jodie and Mary, the pair have been consistently treated as separate beings, despite an extensive degree of concorporation. The ‘need’ for separation surgery in this case, nonetheless, has been widely debated – both in lay and legal contexts – not for reasons of doubt about the ontological status of the infant body, but because it was clear that Mary was parasitic on Jodie and would inevitably die if she were unable to share her twin's vital functions. At the same time, it was calculated that failure to operate would result in the deaths of both after a few months. (The operation did in fact go ahead in November 2000.) The situation was then, extremely complex and I do not presume to judge it. The point I would make, however, is that the debate was conducted in almost exclusively modernist terms, hinging on the right to life, and/or to self-defence, and the disputed rights of the parents, while professional bioethicists added in cost/benefit considerations. The question of what constitutes a self and its relation to the body was not addressed.

    12. For a rather different documentary narrative of medical intervention, in which the concerns of the clinic were overriding, and for which the filming itself realised ‘a certain technologized medical gaze’, see Clark and Myser's account (1996) of the separation of the Thai conjoined twins, Dao and Duan.

    13. In psychoanalytic terms, the mirroring process (both literal and metaphorical), by which the infant comes to see itself as separate and distinct, allows accession to a self-image of corporeal unity that covers over the reality of the fragmentary and uncoordinated motor experiences of the child (Lacan 1977a). As an ego ideal, however, the resultant body map is precarious, having ‘a psychical interior, which requires continual stabilization, and a corporeal exterior which remains labile, open to many meanings’ (Grosz 1994: 38).

    14. See Foucault 1977.

    15. Neither of these cases is in any way unique. Parasitic twinning, and to a lesser extent supernumerary heads, feature in many early ‘monster’ books, and are described by Lycosthenes (1557), Boaistuau (1560), Paré (1573), Licetus (1634), Aldrovandus (1642) and Bartholinus (1654), among others. C.J.S. Thompson (1930) details many other occurrences, traced through handbills, eyewitness accounts, and personal appearances, as for example in Barnum's freak shows.

    1. It is interesting that Fiedler refers to the freak show tradition of displaying human foetuses in glass jars. While the staging was called officially ‘The Show of Life’, it was known by carnival people themselves as ‘pickled punks’. Fiedler sees it as a form of pornography, an ‘ultimate invasion of privacy, revealing what travesties of the human form even the most normal among us are at two, three, or four months after conception’ (1981: 18). What he does not adequately explain is why he would wish such forms to remain hidden.

    2. Catherine Waldby (1996) has written succinctly on the connection between immunology, public health and individual ontology in the context of HIV-AIDs.

    3. I am deliberately using the term broadly, because although there are multiple ways in which disability is experienced, I want to take up the sense in which those specific categories are collapsed into a generalised icon of improper embodiment in conventional discourse.

    4. It is not that disability studies are non-existent, but that they are largely seen as the responsibility of academics who themselves have disabilities. As with feminist studies, their limited impact may in part reflect a certain self-policing of boundaries, of who is and who is not entitled to speak, teach or research, but that only serves to confirm the binary thinking at an institutional level.

    5. The phobic projection of vulnerability onto the (feminine) other signals for Freud an unresolved castration crisis (Freud 1933); for Klein, the rage and confusion occasioned by the loss of the mother's breast (Klein 1986); and for Lacan, a denial of the actual powerlessness of the phallus (Lacan 1977b).

    6. By paternalism I mean making decisions on behalf of others, or acting in their supposed interests, without their fully informed consent.

    7. Such ontological anxiety is part undercut by the turn, often advocated by activists, to a social model of disability which insists that disabling effects are produced by society rather than being the property of individuals. See Oliver 1996, and Shakespeare and Watson 1997, for examples. The implication is that a ‘real’ self is frustrated by the attribution of an improper status.

    8. The complication introduced by Thomson is that in the historical context of nineteenth-century patriarchal United States, the middle-class women themselves are highly constrained by the cult of domesticity and far from being the autonomous and invulnerable agents they wish to be. See Thomson 1997: Chapter 4, ‘Benevolent Maternalism and the Disabled Women in Stowe, Davis, and Phelps’.

    9. Liz Grosz summarises imaginary anatomy as ‘an internalized image or map of the meaning that the body has for the subject, for others in its social world, and for the symbolic order conceived in its generality (that is, for a culture as a whole). It is an individual and collective fantasy of the body's forms and modes of action’ (1994: 39–40). The earlier term, ‘philosophical anatomy’ refers to the supposedly transcendent significance of the human body in reflecting the order and harmony of the created universe. Although the idealised perfection of Vitruvian Man rapidly lost influence after the Renaissance, the idea that the body holds the key to the laws of nature is still fully evident in the early nineteenth-century studies of teratology conducted by Geoffroy St-Hilaire. The point is that the biomedical representation of corporeality is always sutured with complementary discourses which are evident in the metaphorical structure of science and self-consciously imaginative texts alike. See, for example, Jonathan Sawday (1995) for a highly evocative analysis of Renaissance and early modern anatomy in the light of contemporary philosophy, literature, art, religion and natural science.

    10. Lacan's reading of the mirror stage and its emphasis on the narcissistic construction of selfhood is challenged by (among others) Cynthia Willett who claims: ‘The mirror holds the attention of the infant not because it provides a static image of wholeness but because it recalls the interactive qualities of subjectivity’ (1995: 68). Nonetheless, Lacan's analysis better explains the dominant conception of western selfhood.

    11. As Lacan remarks:

    This disarray, this fragmentedness, this fundamental discordance, this essential lack of adaptation, this anarchy, which opens up every possibility of displacement, that is of error, is characteristic of the instinctual life of man… That is in fact what so many different experiences show one, and calling them psychopathological conveys nothing since they lie on a continuum with many experiences which themselves are regarded as normal. (1988: 169)

    12. It will strike us that the uncanny carries much of the force of Derridean différance, as a term that undoes binary difference. As Freud is at pains to stress, the words heimlich/unheimlich are by no means simple opposites, and might be better expressed as (un)heimlich. The meaning of heimlich is both that which is homely, familiar, intimate, and that which is concealed and hidden from sight (Freud 1919).

    1. Throughout this chapter, I have referred to the ‘other’ in my own text without capitalization. Although Levinas makes a distinction, especially in Totality and Infinity between ‘autrui’ and ‘autre’ as personal Other and general other respectively, his translator, Alphonso Lingis, admits that he has had to sacrifice ‘the possibility of reproducing the author's use of capital or small letters with both these terms in the French text’ (Levinas 1969: 25n.). In Otherwise than Being, the issue has been shelved, and lower case is the general form. I follow all quotations as they are given in translation.

    2. The Saying and the Said are aspects respectively of pre-ontological and post-ontological language. While the latter refers to themes, propositions and meanings that are a conscious communication between subjects, either individually or as a socius, the former is the event of the risky exposure of the one to the other in the ethical encounter. Saying holds open ‘its openness, without excuses, evasion or alibis, delivering itself without saying anything Said’ (Levinas 1998: 143). It is ‘a statement of the “here I am” which is identified with nothing but the very voice that states and delivers itself, the voice that signifies’ (ibid.).

    3. I am using the term ‘gift’ in the postmodernist sense of that which is given with no goal, and that is not the prelude to exchange. It presupposes neither the donor nor receiver as separate identities. As Derrida puts it: ‘For there to be a gift, there must be no reciprocity, return, exchange, countergift or debt. If the other gives me back or owes me or has to give me back what I will give him or her, then there will not be a gift’ (1992: 12).

    4. I take up this theme more fully in Chapter 6.

    1. See Richard Rorty (1980) and Rodolphe Gasché (1986) for detailed analyses.

    2. As Derrida has made clear, reiteration is not in any case a faithful copy. See, for example, Limited Inc (Derrida 1988) and Judith Butler Bodies That Matter (1993) for a detailed exposition.

    3. Deleuze insists that Foucault's work is haunted by the theme of the double, which he links with the notion of the fold that produces an interiorisation of the outside. Accordingly, ‘the double is never a projection of the interior. … I do not encounter myself on the outside, I find the other in me. … It resembles exactly the invagination of a tissue in embryology’ (Deleuze 1988: 98). Moreover, that other cannot be fully assimilated; there is always a ‘snag’, a difference, in the operation of the fold.

    4. Anzieu's view is no mere rhetorical gesture, but is widely accepted in both physiological and psychological literature. Ashley Montagu, for example, offers the following: ‘When the embryo is less than an inch long from crown to rump, and less than eight weeks old, light stroking of the upper lip or wings of the nose will cause bending of the neck and trunk away from the source of stimulation. At this stage in its development, the embryo has neither eyes nor ears. Yet its skin is already highly developed’ (1971: 1).

    5. Levinas too insists that the face to face encounter ‘is not a play of mirrors’ (1969: 183). But where for Merleau-Ponty and Irigaray the encounter is mediated by touch, and the potential opening onto sociality, Levinas is concerned to emphasise not mutuality, but a responsibility beyond ourselves: ‘The surpassing of phenomenal or inward existence does not consist in receiving the recognition of the Other, but in offering him one's being’ (1969: 183).

    6. One is reminded of Foucault's expression of the folds that constitute the doubling of the self. See note 3.

    7. The first cut is of course that of the umbilical cord interconnecting mother and infant.

    8. I am grateful to Janet Price for posing this question to me. Interestingly, Merleau-Ponty makes a similar point with regard to his flesh ontology: ‘Where are we to put the limit between the body and the world, since the world is flesh?’ (1968: 138). He further discusses the matter of the cut, what he calls the ‘cleavage’ in relation to the me–other exchange (1968: 215). I am reminded that ‘cleave’ is one of those words, to which Derrida has alerted us, that means two apparently contradictory things, as in (a) split apart and (b) cling to. As Derrida remarks: ‘Words of this type situate better than others the places where discourses can no longer dominate, judge, decide: between the positive and the negative, the good and the bad, the true and the false’ (1995b: 86). How, then, should we think twin bodies in the mode of cleavage?

    9. In another well-documented case of conjoined twins in the UK, the post-operative strategy of positioning a mirror next to the bed of each recovering twin both served to reflect back a ‘whole’ and separate self, and was seen to minimise distress at the loss of the other-self (ITN report, 21 July 1998). These ostensibly contradictory aims at least show an awareness of the paradox of concorporation that is entirely missing in the case of Hira and Nida, the twins discussed in Chapter 3. To aid the former's recovery after separation, the therapist has no doubt of what is required: ‘Right away we got a mirror and showed her she was just her’ (BBC TV, 1999).

    10. Where ‘flesh’ is used in the sense intended by Merleau-Ponty, the emotion may be independent of actual contact. I am touched by the images of the Still Life exhibition (see Chapter 4), and by documentaries about concorporate twins, precisely because we share the same elemental, intercorporeal, mutually enfolding space.

    11. See Chapter 3 for an initial discussion of the Coloredo twins.

    1. For a fuller analysis of Derrida's position, see Shildrick 1997: 160–7.

    2. As Haraway explains:

    Irony is about contradictions that do not resolve into larger wholes, even dialectically, about the tension of holding incompatible things together because both or all are necessary and true. Irony is about humor and serious play. It is also a rhetorical strategy and a political method. (1990: 190)

    3. FemaleMan© is Haraway's own term, originally derived from Joanna Russ' novel The Female Man (1975), for a transgenic hominid creation of techno-science and informatics. Oncomouse™ is the commercial name of a special laboratory-manipulated strain of mice which bears oncogenes, and was marketed by the Du Pont medical products division in the 1990s as a cancer research tool. For Haraway, each is both potentially promising and apocalyptic.

    4. See, for example, Lee Quinby's reservations in Anti-Apocalypse, 1994: 91.

    5. On the less abstract level too there is reason for caution, for the bodily reconstructions that are at the heart of global biotechnology are driven, as Haraway recognises, by the search for power and profit (1997: 61).

    6. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein was published in 1818; an account of Etienne Geoffroy St-Hilaire's experiments, Considérations générales sur les monstres, in 1826 (cited in Wilson 1993).

    7. See Shildrick 1997, Chapter 6, for a fuller analysis of such concerns with regard to the advanced reproductive technologies available in the western world.

    8. This is particularly true of Derridean discourse, where the clearest use of the feminine as the privileged figure of undecidability can be found in Dissemination (1981a).

    9. There are frequent allusions throughout Derrida's work to the ethical emptiness of a rule-bound, calculative morality that takes no account of undecidability. Perhaps the clearest exposition is found in the question and answer session published as ‘Hospitality, Justice and Responsibility’ where Derrida remarks:

    there would be no decision, in the strong sense of the word, in ethics, in politics, no decision and thus no responsibility, without the experience of some undecidability. If you don't experience some undecidability, then the decision would simply be the application of a programme, the consequence of a premiss or a matrix. So a decision has to go through some impossibility in order for it to be a decision. (1999: 66)

    10. Andrew Tudor's analysis of what he terms ‘paranoid horror’, which arises where boundaries cannot be recuperated, is one such example. Specifically he uses film to exemplify ‘contemporary experiences of disorder and incoherence in social life’ (1995: 39).


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