‘An Utterly Dark Spot: Gaze and Body in Early Modern Philosophy’ by Miran Božovič, Foreword by Slavoj Žižek

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Slovenian philosopher Miran Božovič’s An Utterly Dark Spot examines the elusive status of the body in early modern European philosophy by examining its various encounters with the gaze. Its range is impressive, moving from the Greek philosophers and theorists of the body (Aristotle, Plato, Hippocratic medical writers) to early modern thinkers (Spinoza, Leibniz, Malebranche, Descartes, Bentham) to modern figures including Jon Elster, Lacan, Althusser, Alfred Hitchcock, Stephen J. Gould, and others. Božovič provides startling glimpses into various foreign mentalities haunted by problems of divinity, immortality, creation, nature, and desire, provoking insights that invert familiar assumptions about the relationship between mind and body.

The perspective is Lacanian, but Božovič explores the idiosyncrasies of his material (e.g., the bodies of the Scythians, the transvestites transformed and disguised for the gaze of God; or Adam’s body, which remained unseen as long as it was the only one in existence) with an attention to detail that is exceptional among Lacanian theorists. The approach makes for engaging reading, as Božovič stages imagined encounters between leading thinkers, allowing them to converse about subjects that each explored, but in a different time and place. While its focus is on a particular problem in the history of philosophy, An Utterly Dark Spot will appeal to those interested in cultural studies, semiotics, theology, the history of religion, and political philosophy as well.