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Additional info for Body Narratives: Writing the Nation and Fashioning the Subject in Early Modern England

Sample text

The ‘burning’ passions of the body must be constrained in the course of the quest; the contained, impermeable, ‘cool’ body is its desired result. The link between martial and medical images is provided by the notion of regimen, which implies a militant conquest of the passions by reason aiming at the balance or restitution of body heat. The achievement of a poised body temperature is preceded by a fight of the ‘fiery’ passions with ‘cold’ reason, which is also often rendered as a conflict between nature and culture.

Sprezzatura, the technique of the ‘as if’, creates an effect of naturalness where there is art and training; it makes the courtier’s ‘grace’ seem natural (as opposed to affected). Sprezzatura does not, as is often assumed, necessarily imply a Machiavellistic consciousness of the dissimulative possibilities inherent in this practice of the self, and strategic versions of subjectivity must not result from conscious self-fashioning, which would, quite anachronistically, presuppose an autonomous subject.

33 Though it is still addressed as a godlike structure, the body depicted here is no longer the humoral body in which everything is in flux and in which the different body fluids can metamorphose into each other. Here, the thresholds between body and world have turned into rigid boundaries. Fluids and processes are being kept apart, and the orderly manner in which digestion happens seems symptomatic of an effort to represent even involuntary bodily processes as ruled by temperance. Apparently, the ideal result of a disciplinary discourse which reconstructs the self and his or her body in accordance with social and political changes is a fortified structure, a castle or, as the Port Esquiline-image suggests, a city.

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