The Image of Bentham
6:00 pm to 8:00 pm, 19 June 2018
Part of the Bentham and the Arts seminar series
Moot Court, Bentham House, 4-8 Endsleigh Gardens, London WC1H 0EG
Speaker: Dr Carolyn Shapiro (Falmouth)
About the seminar:
Bentham’s own Auto-Icon, and his written treatise for the greater good which would come if we all were to auto-iconise ourselves, materialise his ongoing interest in the physical body, an interest which persists and pushes throughout his voluminous textual corpus, both thematically and on the level of the figurative language which he applies. For Bentham, the notion of “image” is supplemented and suffused by the notion of “body.” This seminar will first establish, though close reading, the fundamental physicality which comes through so much of Bentham’s writing, including but certainly not exclusive to Of Sexual Irregularities, and Other Writings on Sexual Morality and “Not Paul, But Jesus.” As just mentioned, this fundamental physicality happens on the levels of both content and textual strategy. We can then try to figure out the relation between physical pleasure and the aesthetic principle as Bentham presents this relation, reading any slips which come through, for example, in the footnotes and editorial insertions, which might bely Bentham’s repressions and denials of his own pleasures in aesthetics as a Utilitarian. I am particularly interested in exploring the analogies that can be drawn between Bentham’s written corpus and his actual body, both of which required intervention by a fashioning hand in order to achieve a presentable, finished, perhaps even artistic, finished product, for the greater good. Other curious questions come up upon close reading of Bentham’s writings on Sexual Irregularities. Why does Bentham foreground male homosexuality quite so much? What is the relation he makes between aesthetics and homosexuality and how does the pleasure he takes in his own writing map onto the sexuality devised in his adamant Paul/Jesus axis? These questions and more will be explored.