An Aesthetics of Injury

Cloth Text – $99.95

ISBN 978-0-8101-3680-9

Paper Text – $34.95

ISBN 978-0-8101-3679-3

E-book – $34.95

ISBN 978-0-8101-3681-6
Publication Date
March 2018
Page Count
320 pages
Trim Size
6 x 9

An Aesthetics of Injury

The Narrative Wound from Baudelaire to Tarantino
Ian Fleishman

An Aesthetics of Injury exposes wounding as a foundational principle of modernism in literature and film. Theorizing the genre of the narrative wound—texts that aim not only to depict but also to inflict injury—Ian 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 exposed (whether these narrativists still believe in narrative at all).

With fresh and revealing readings of canonical authors and filmmakers seldom treated alongside one another, An Aesthetics of Injury is important reading for scholars working on literary or cinematic modernism and the postmodern, philosophy, narratology, body culture studies, queer and gender studies, trauma studies, and cultural theory. 
About the Author

IAN FLEISHMAN is Assistant Professor in the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures at the University of Pennsylvania. 

“An incisive and provocative contribution to the history and theory of modern narrative since Baudelaire… Fleishman shows that the idea of an open wound as an allegoric dimension, or an ‘aesthetics of injury,' plays a vital and thus far neglected role in nineteenth and twentieth-century literature."
 —Johannes Türk, author of Die Immunität der Literatur

An Aesthetics of Injury is insightful, beautifully written, and compelling. It will help shift many discussions in literary, film and feminist studies."
 —Kathleen Komar, author of Reclaiming Klytemnestra: Revenge or Reconciliation

"Cultural diagnostician Ian Fleishman trains his writing on the incomprehensible wounding of language. With an elegant sensibility for the disruptions of narrative injury and structural disintegration, he scans the agony of essential literary despair after Baudelaire and Kafka. Poignant and incisive, alert to disavowed aspects of social existence, An Aesthetics of Injury comes up against Freudian theories of castration and political deficiency. The work collects a dossier of texts that are befallen by the oversignifying tendencies of inbound catastrophe. Cixous, Genet, Tarantino, Jelinek, and others are scanned for the rhetorical lesions and narrative loopholes that constitute our modernity."  —Avital Ronell 

In An Aesthetics of Injury, Ian Fleishman convincingly proposes wounding as a major narrative strategy in modernist aesthetics, one that seeks to compensate for literature’s apparent powerlessness by insisting on its duty (in Kafka’s words) to “sting” or “stab”. Fleishman’s argument refreshingly sidesteps the discourse of trauma studies, focusing instead on the aesthetics and complicated enunciative status of narrative injury. —French Forum

leishman’s book is extremely successful at bringing together a wide array of media and artists to offer us an innovative and extremely useful theorization of aesthetic violence." —The German Quarterly