Today, body and language are prominent themes throughout philosophy. Each is strange enough on its own; this book asks what sense we might make of them together. Words reach out. Hands pick up books; eyes or fingertips scan text. But just where, if at all, do words and bodies touch?
In a trio of paired chapters, each juxtaposing an illustrative story or case study to a theoretical exploration, MacKendrick examines three somatic figures of speech: the touch, the fold, and the cut. In the first pairing, resurrection stories in the Gospel of John are set against a chapter on touch, which draws on the work of Jean-Luc Nancy to argue that touch is, paradoxically, the most lasting of the sensory modes in which the resurrected body is presented.
T. S. Eliot's "Ash Wednesday" is then paired with a Deleuzean meditation on the fold. The final pair of chapters examines the sacred heart, an extraordinarily popular Catholic devotional image with an intriguing set of devotees-medieval mystics, sweet old ladies, and tattooed punks-in light of theoretical work of Foucault on the idea of inscribed bodies, of the cut.
Theologically and philosophically sophisticated, indeed masterly, the book never loses its ground in real, specific bodily experience, performing both at the highest levels of abstraction and at the most quotidian levels of everyday life.
MacKendrick’s "Word Made Skin"offers an exciting and innovative philosophy of desire. This deeply engaging work, which reads at moments like a poem, a prayer, or a love letter, performs dazzlingly what it also analyzes incisively--namely, the mutual touching, enfolding, and cutting-across of bodies, of words, and above all of bodies /and/ words
that meet (as they can only meet) at their limits. Richly intertextual philosophical chapters exploring figures of “touch,” “fold,” and “cut” are provocatively interleaved with chapters on the risen Christ of
John’s Gospel, the light-enfolded Marian figure of T.S. Eliot’s poem “Ash Wednesday,” and tattooed images of the “sacred” and “immaculate”
hearts of Christ and Mary. MacKendrick’s philosophy repeatedly touches
upon theology, and her book should be read by theologians as well as
philosophers and others interested in desire, language, embodiment, and
the relation between them.
Drew Theological Seminary
Karmen MacKendrick is one of the most original and most important philosophers and theologians now writing in the English language. *Word Made Skin* brings her thinking to full maturity. It is beautiful and disturbing, complex and clear: a profound exploration of the surface.
Maryland Institute College of Art