Violence at an aesthetic remove from the spectator or reader has been a key element of narrative and visual arts since Greek antiquity. Here Robert Appelbaum explores the nature of mimesis, aggression, the effects of antagonism and victimization and the political uses of art throughout history. He examines how violence in art is formed, contextualised and used by its audiences and readers. Bringing traditional German aesthetic and social theory to bear on the modern problem of violence in art, Appelbaum engages theorists including Kant, Schiller, Hegel, Adorno and Gadamer. The book takes the reader from Homer and Shakespeare to slasher films and performance art, showing how violence becomes at once a language, a motive, and an idea in the experience of art. It addresses the controversies head on, taking a nuanced view of the subject, understanding that art can damage as well as redeem. But it concludes by showing that violence (in the real world) is a necessary condition of art (in the world of mimetic play).
1. Playing with Violence / 2. Hansel or Gretel / 3. Winners and Losers / 4. Revelry / 5. Puzzle / Epilogue: Art Without Violence, Violence Without Art / Bibliography / Index
Robert Appelbaum is Professor Emeritus of English Literature at Uppsala University, Sweden. He is the author of Literature and Utopian Politics in Seventeenth-Century England (2002), Aguecheek’s Beef, Belch’s Hiccup, and Other Gastronomic Interjections: Literature, Culture and Food Among the Early Moderns (2006), Dishing It Out: In Search of the Restaurant Experience (2011), Working the Aisles: A Life in Consumption (2014) and Terrorism Before the Letter: Mythography and Political Violence in England, Scotland and France (2015).
We are always, writes Appelbaum, “being made to know of it - the slap, the abuse, the threat.” And Applebaum certainly knows of it – violence, that is. He knows of it, above all, as art knows of it - that is to say, from the inside of it. The very ‘rhythm of violence,’ as Appelbaum calls it, can here be felt.