Plastic body, permanent body: Czech representations of corporeality in the early twentieth century

Sleigh, Charlotte (2009) Plastic body, permanent body: Czech representations of corporeality in the early twentieth century. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C, 40 (4). pp. 241-255. ISSN 1369-8486. (The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided)

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In the early twentieth century, the body was seen as both an ontogenetic and a phylogenetic entity. In the former case, its individual development, it was manifestly changeable, developing from embryo to maturity and thence to a state of decay. But in the latter case, concerning its development as a species, the question was an open one. Was its phylogenetic nature a stationary snapshot of the slow process of evolution, or was this too mutable? Historians have emphasised that the question of acquired inheritance remained open into the twentieth century; this paper explores how various constructions of the individual as a phylogenetic episode—a stage in the race’s evolution—related to representations of the body in the same period. A discussion of the work of the brothers Josef and Karel Cˇapek offers a contextualised answer to the question of bodily representation. Karel Cˇ apek (1890–1938) explored the nature of the ‘average man’ through two different organisms, the robot and the amphibian, epitomes respectively of corporeal permanence and plasticity. Josef Cˇ apek (1887–1945), along with other members of the Group of Plastic Artists, explored visual representations of the body that challenged cubist Bergsonian norms. In so doing, he affirmed what his brother also held: that despite the constrictions imposed by the oppressive political conditions in which the Czechs found themselves, the individual body was a fragile but fluid entity, capable of effecting change upon the future evolution of humankind.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled keywords: Josef and Karel Čapek, Evolution, Henri Bergson, Literature, Cubism, Artisanship
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General)
Divisions: Faculties > Humanities > School of History
Depositing User: Zoe Denness
Date Deposited: 02 Oct 2012 12:47
Last Modified: 06 May 2014 15:06
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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