An Aesthetics of Injury: The Narrative Wound from Baudelaire to Tarantino

Ian Thomas Fleishman

Northwestern University Press
2018

Winner of the Northeast Modern Language Association Best Book Award.

In An Aesthetics of Injury, Ian Fleishman exposes wounding as a foundational principle of literary and filmic modernism. Theorizing the genre of the narrative wound—texts that aim not only to depict but also to inflict injury—Fleishman reveals harm as an essential aesthetic strategy in ten exemplary authors and filmmakers: Charles Baudelaire, Franz Kafka, Georges Bataille, Jean Genet, Hélène Cixous, Ingeborg Bachmann, Elfriede Jelinek, Werner Schroeter, Michael Haneke, and Quentin Tarantino. Violence in the modernist mode, an ostensible intrusion of raw bodily harm into the artwork, aspires to transcend its own textuality, and yet, as An Aesthetics of Injury establishes, the wound paradoxically remains the essence of inscription. Fleishman thus shows how the wound, once the modernist emblem par excellence of an immediate aesthetic experience, comes to be implicated in a postmodern understanding of reality reduced to ceaseless mediation. In so doing, he demonstrates how what we think of as the most real object, the human body, becomes indistinguishable from its 'nonreal' function as text. At stake in this tautological textual model is the heritage of narrative thought: both the narratological workings of these texts (how they tell stories) and the underlying epistemology this reveals (whether these narrativists still believe in narrative at all).