It is the largest and perhaps the most important organ of our body—it covers our fragile inner parts, defines our social identities, and channels our sensory experiences. And yet we rarely give a thought. With The Book of Skin, Steven Connor aims to change all that, offering an intriguing cultural history of skin. Connor first examines physical issues such as leprosy, skin pigmentation, cancer, blushing, and attenuations of erotic touch. He also explains why specific colors symbolize certain emotions, such as green for envy or yellow for cowardice, as well as why skin is the focus of destructive rage in many people’s violent fantasies.
The Book of Skin then probes into how skin has been such a powerfully symbolic terrain in photography, religious iconography, cinema, and literature. From the Turin shroud to Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man to plastic surgery, The Book of Skin expertly examines the role of skin in Western culture. A compelling read that penetrates well beyond skin-deep, The Book of Skin validates James Joyce’s declaration that “modern man has an epidermis rather than a soul.” “Richly conceived and elaborately thought out. No flicker of meaning has escaped Connor’s ferocious, all-seeing eye.”—Guardian
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"The largest human organ is the skin. It is so ubiquitous that we do not even think of it as an organ. Steven Connor's brilliant, readable Book of Skin makes you very uncomfortable in your own skin because in reading you become hyperaware of it. Connor spells out the myriad, often contradictory Western meanings associated with the skin, its biology, and its psychological implications. An exhaustive, fascinating look at an aspect of the history of the body little studied and still less understood."—Sander L. Gilman, University of Illinois, ChicagoAbout the Author:
Steven Connor is professor of modern literature and theory in the School of Literature and Humanities at Birkbeck College, University of London. He is also the author of Dumbstruck: A Cultural History of Ventriloquism and Fly.
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