Tattoo, Torture, Mutilation, and Adornment

The Denaturalization of the Body in Culture and Text

Edited by Frances E. Mascia-Lees & Patricia Sharpe

Subjects: Anthropology
Series: SUNY series, The Body in Culture, History, and Religion
Paperback : 9780791410660, 184 pages, September 1992
Hardcover : 9780791410653, 184 pages, September 1992

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Table of contents

1. Introduction: Soft-Tissue Modification and the Horror Within
Frances E. Mascia-Lees and Patricia Sharpe

2. The Greatest Story (N)Ever Told: The Spectacle of Recantation
Helena Michie

3. Cinematic Gifts: The Moral and Social Exchange of Bodies in Horror Films
Louise Krasniewicz

4. Olfactory Constitution of the Postmodern Body: Nature Challenged, Nature Adorned
Colleen Ballerino Cohen

5. Vandalized Vanity: Feminine Physiques Betrayed and Portrayed
Anne Bolin

6. As You Stand, So You Feel and Are: The Crying Body and the Nineteenth-Century Text
Robyn R. Warhol

7. Torture: A Discourse on Practice
Ñacuñán Sáez

8. The Marked and the Un(re)marked: Tattoo and Gender in Theory and Narrative
Frances E. Mascia-Lees and Patricia Sharpe


Analyzes the power of culture to encode its messages on the human form.


Contemporary theory across a wide range of disciplines denaturalizes the body and reveals it to be a social construction. Cultural practices which deform, adorn, mutilate, and obliterate the body illustrate that it is an important site for the inscription of culture. The authors draw on cross currents in feminist theory, literary criticism, anthropology, and history to analyze several such cultural practices as examples of the power of culture to encode its messages on the human form.

Frances E. Mascia-Lees is Professor of Anthropology at Simon's Rock College of Bard where she is also co-director of Women's Studies. She is the author of Toward a Model of Women's Status. Patricia Sharpe is Professor of Literature and Women's Studies at Simon's Rock College of Bard.


"This exciting book engages the most current debates about the representation of the human body, particularly the female body, in various media such as literature, film, and popular magazines. Thoroughly conversant with the latest in feminist criticism, gender theory, and the predicaments of postmodern culture, the authors explore various narratives and images through which the gendered body is currently represented.

"What makes this a coherent volume is the shared interest throughout the essays in the representation of the body surface (tattooing, perfuming, weightlifting) and body penetration (rape, torture) and the relationship of these matters to the issue of gender. This volume thus combines a theoretical sophistication with attention to a variety of fascinating case studies that illuminate the predicament of the body in postmodern culture. " — Howard Eilberg Schwartz, Stanford University