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The Hurt(ful) BodyPerforming and Beholding Pain, 1600-1800$
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Tomas Macsotay, Cornelis van der Haven, and Karel Vanhaesebrouck

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781784995164

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9781784995164.001.0001

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Theatrical torture versus dramatic cruelty: subjection through representation or praxis1

Theatrical torture versus dramatic cruelty: subjection through representation or praxis1

(p.223) 9 Theatrical torture versus dramatic cruelty: subjection through representation or praxis1
The Hurt(ful) Body

Frans-Willem Korsten

Manchester University Press

The distinction between the theatrical and the dramatic is pivotal for different modes of subjection in the early modern era. Institutionally speaking, society was organized ideologically, theatrically by the introjection of what was shown publicly to private, but equally collective, theatres of the mind. This could be described as a logic of torture. In contrast, and on the other hand, the dramatic application of punishment on ships, and the pain it involved, served what Robert Cover called a ‘balance of terror’, based on a logic of what Deleuze defined as ‘cruelty’. In order to clarify this distinction, and the implication it has for our ideas on gouvernmentalité, this chapter will propose a close reading of a painting by Lieve Verschuier that either depicts a peculiar case of keelhauling or, allegorically, the lynching of the brothers De Witt in 1672. Although the painting is clearly theatrical, formally speaking, it superimposes a dramatic logic on the traumatic political event of the lynching of the brothers De Witt. This will be considered in the chapter as one instance of a more general shift in the seventeenth century: a shift away from the theatrical logic of torture to the dramatic logic of cruelty.

Keywords:   Dramatic cruelty; Theatrical torture; Subjection; Visual Arts; Dutch Republic

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