Bodily gesture. A Roman worshipper spins in a circle in front of a temple. Faced with death, a Roman woman tears her hair and beats her breasts. Enthusiastic spectators at a gladiatorial event gesticulate with thumbs. Examining the tantalizing glimpses of ancient bodies offered by surviving Roman sculptures, paintings, and literary texts, Anthony Corbeill analyzes the role of gesture in medical and religious ritual, in the gladiatorial arena, in mourning practice, in aristocratic competition of the late Republic, and in the court of the emperor Tiberius. Adopting approaches from anthropology, gender studies, and ecological theory, Nature Embodied offers both a series of case studies and an overarching narrative of the role and meanings of gesture in ancient Rome.
Arguing that bodily movement grew out of the relationship between Romans and their natural, social, and spiritual environment, the book explores the ways in which an originally harmonious relationship between nature and the body was manipulated as Rome became socially and politically complex. By the time that Tacitus was writing about the reign of Tiberius, the emergence of a new political order had prompted an increasingly inscrutable equation between truth and the body--and something vital in the once harmonizing relationship between bodies and the world beyond them had been lost.
Nature Embodied makes an important contribution to an expanding field of research by offering a new theoretical model for the study of gesture in classical times.
"In this widely accessible study Anthony Corbeill applies anthropological and sociological approaches to aspects of gesture and body language in ancient Rome. . . . Corbeill examines textual and verbal evidence . . . to offer innovative and often bold interpretations."--Philip Hardie, Religious Studies Review
"Showing exemplary control of his Latin sources, Corbeill alerts readers to Roman feelings about certain formal and ritual gestures, about stance and gait, and about facial expressions. He makes a significant contribution to Roman history and historiography--and to our understanding of the Roman soul."--Alan L. Boegehold, Brown University, author of When a Gesture was Expected
"This is an important successor to the author's well received and frequently cited Controlling Laughter. Corbeill argues that gesture responds to nature as man's instinct for harmonizing bodily existence with the power of the earth but, with increased social complexity, becomes systematized and studied. In contrast to other treatments, Corbeill's range of gesture includes not merely what is done with the hands or prescribed in rhetorical treatises but all aspects of bodily movement, facial expression, dress, posture."--Eleanor Winsor Leach, Indiana University, author of The Rhetoric of Space
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