The forty-eight essays and photographic dossiers in these three volumes examine the history of the human body as a field where life and thought intersect. They show how different cultures at different times have entwined physical capacities and mental mechanisms in order to construct a body adapted to moral ideas or social circumstances — the body of a charismatic citizen or a visionary monk, a mirror image of the world or a reflection of the spirit.
Each volume emphasizes a particular perspective. Part 1 explores the human body’s relationship to the divine, to the bestial, and to the machines that imitate or simulate it. Part 2 covers the junctures between the body’s “outside” and “inside” by studying the manifestations — or production — of the soul and the expression of the emotions and, on another level, by examining the speculations inspired by cenesthesia, pain, and death. Part 3 brings into play the classical opposition between organ and function by showing how organs or bodily substances can be used to justify or challenge the way human societies function and, conversely, how political and social functions tend to make the bodies of the persons filling them the organs of a larger body — the social body or the universe as a whole.
Among the contributors to Fragments for a History of the Human Body are Mark Elvin, Catherine Gallagher, Françoise Héritier-Augé, Julia Kristeva, William R. LaFleur, Thomas W. Laqueur, Jacques Le Goff, Nicole Loraux, Mario Perniola, Hillel Schwartz, Jean Starobinski, Jean-Pierre Vernant, and Caroline Walker Bynum.
“[In these three volumes] there are riches all around, and stories strange but true, and things [the reader] will not have heard before.” —Washington Post Book World
“ZONE is unequivocally the most innovative, informative, and intellectually stimulating journal I have ever encountered…It belongs in all but the smallest personal, public, and academic collections.” — Library Journal