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Home Bodies

Tactile Experience in Domestic Space

James Krasner

Publication Year: 2010

How do acts of caring for the sick or grieving for the dead change the way we move through our living rooms and bedrooms? Why do elderly homeowners struggle to remain in messy, junk-filled houses? Why are we so attached to our pets, even when they damage and soil our living spaces? In Home Bodies: Tactile Experience in Domestic Space, James Krasner offers an interdisciplinary, humanistic investigation of the sense of touch in our experience of domestic space and identity. Accessing the work of gerontologists, neurologists, veterinarians, psychologists, social geographers, and tactual perception theorists to lay the groundwork for his experiential claims, he also ranges broadly through literary and cultural criticism dealing with the body, habit, and material culture. By demonstrating crucial links between domestic experience and tactile perception, Home Bodies investigates questions of identity, space, and the body. Krasner analyzes representations of tactile experience from a range of canonical literary works and authors, including the Bible, Sophocles, Marilynne Robinson, Charles Dickens, John Steinbeck, and Sylvia Plath, as well as a series of popular contemporary texts. This work will contribute to discussions of embodiment, space, and domesticity by literary and cultural critics, scholars in the medical humanities, and interdisciplinary thinkers from multiple fields.

Published by: The Ohio State University Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-9

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pp. ix-x

Arnold Arluke and Peter Gollub were both very generous with their time and expertise on animal hoarding; they continue to do valuable work helping hoarders and their animal victims. A version of chapter 1 appeared previously as “Doubtful Arms and Phantom Limbs: The Tangible...

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pp. 1-18

This study argues for the centrality of the sense of touch to our experience of life at home. Highlighting the significance of tactility as a critical and experiential framework through which contemporary cultural constructions of intimacy, domesticity, and embodied subjectivity can be...

I. Broken H omes: Intimacy, Tactility, and the Dissolution of Domestic Space

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pp. 19-31

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1. Tangible Grief

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pp. 21-40

In this passage from To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf lets us experience some of the desperate confusion that Mr. Ramsay feels in the brief moment when he still expects his wife’s body to fill the space between his outstretched arms. Reading this passage for the first time, we are...

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2. Mess and Memory

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pp. 41-61

When my parents passed away and my brothers and I were left to clean out the house, we expected the worst. My father was wheelchair-bound and hadn’t been upstairs in decades, and my mother’s vascular dementia had led to peculiar housekeeping practices, so we were prepared for...

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3. The Hoarder’s House

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pp. 62-83

It is easy to have too many cats. In my family’s case, one cat named Lana had one litter of kittens, each of which had a litter or two. Hand-lettered signs advertising free kittens were permanently posted on our fence. The cats tore up the couch arms, infested the beds with fleas, and ripped big...

II. Homes without Walls: Intercorporeal Domestic Space

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pp. 85-97

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4. Homeless Companions

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pp. 87-111

I probably should have known it was a bad idea to take the dog along on my honeymoon. Not because it interfered with romance or because my wife was jealous (we were both as besotted with Jess, our black-andwhite Springer Spaniel, as we were with one another), but because it...

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5. The Healing Touch

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pp. 112-136

My father had degenerative arthritis and was also accident prone; as a result, our home was frequently a place of noisome convalescence. He was once dragged down the driveway by the car, and, while avoiding more serious injury, he had huge patches of skin scraped off his whole...

III. Home at the Body’s Edge: Domesticity as Somatosensory Boundary Definition

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pp. 137-149

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6. The Language of Pressure

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pp. 139-164

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus advises his followers, “enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret” (Matthew 6:6). As a child, I thought he meant this literally. Every night I would creep into the closet in my bedroom, kneel down between...

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7. The Leper’s Studio

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pp. 165-189

I wrote most of this book lying flat on my back. A few years ago I developed ischial bursitis, an inflammation of the pelvic bursa, which prevents me from sitting at a desk. This fairly comic affliction has not transformed my life, but it has changed my perception of how my body relates to the...

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Postscript. Living and Dying at Home

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pp. 190-199

Over the course of my argument for the significance of tactile experience in the home, two related theses have emerged. The first is that the homeowner’s identity is deeply enmeshed in the habitual corporeal dynamics of the home. Attachment to the home is based on our physical...

Works Cited

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pp. 201-210


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pp. 211-217

E-ISBN-13: 9780814270912
E-ISBN-10: 0814270913
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814211342
Print-ISBN-10: 0814211348

Page Count: 217
Publication Year: 2010