Fall 1983 • Vol. V No. 4 NonfictionOctober 1, 1983 |

Instant Repulsion: Decrepitude, the Mirror Stage, and the Literary Imagination

What shall I do with this absurdity--- O heart, O troubled heart---this caricature, Decrepit age that has been tied to me As to a dog's tail? YEATS "The body is the symbol of the human condition," affirms the French physician and lay philosopher Jacques Sarano.1 The proposition, to which we might be tempted to give quick assent, is seductively open-ended. We test it first, I suspect, by conjuring up an image of a human body which we take to be representative of the human body. But which body? Whose body? And at what point in time? Our answers to these questions reveal both personal desires, or fears, and cultural values, for the social body constrains the way in which the physical body is perceived. Might not our responses reveal unconscious impulses as well? In the ecstatic cultural politics of the sixties, for example, the body was extolled as a site of liberation. Norman O. Brown, Theodore Roszak, and Herbert Marcuse, among many others, championed the erotic econ

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