Journal of Romance studies

Words, bodies and stone

Journal of Romance studies (2006), 6, (3), 1–18.


What is it that attracts us to sculptures, especially of the human form? How do we imaginatively approach a sculpted figure as if to caress or penetrate it? – and, further, how are such encounters represented in that most immaterial of media, language? Is the surface all there is, or does our gaze alter the object from stone to flesh and back again? This illustrated article, originally an Inaugural Lecture at the University of London, looks at the above questions through a series of textual examples, mainly French and German, from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries. It proposes three figures of the metamorphosis of desire: Medusa, Galatea and Pinocchio; and traces versions of the desire to touch from Goethe, Büchner, Gautier and Meyer to Rilke, Anzieu and Anish Kapoor.

Access Token
If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here

Anzieu, Didier (1995) [1985] Le Moi-peau (Paris: Dunod). Le Moi-peau Google Scholar

Anzieu, Didier (1999) [1990] L’épiderme nomade et la peau psychique (Paris: Les Éditions du Collège de psychanalyse groupale et familiale). L’épiderme nomade et la peau psychique Google Scholar

Barthes, Roland (1973) Le Plaisir du texte (Paris: Seuil). Le Plaisir du texte Google Scholar

Baudelaire, Charles (1968) Œuvres complètes, ed. Marcel Ruff (Paris: Seuil). Œuvres complètes Google Scholar

Büchner, Georg (1992) [1839] Lenz, in Sämtliche Werke, Briefe und Dokumente, 2 vols (Frankfurt-am-Main: Deutscher Klassiker Verlag), Band 1, 223–50. Lenz Sämtliche Werke, Briefe und Dokumente 1 223 50 Google Scholar

Collodi, Carlo (1983) [1883] Le avventure di Pinocchio: storia di un burattino (Milan: Mondadori). Le avventure di Pinocchio: storia di un burattino Google Scholar

Collodi, Carlo (1996) [1883], The Adventures of Pinocchio, tr. Ann Lawson Lucas (Oxford: Oxford University Press). The Adventures of Pinocchio Google Scholar

Condillac, Étienne Bonnot, Abbé de (1984) Traité des sensations (Paris: Fayard). Traité des sensations Google Scholar

Gautier, Théophile (1947) [1872] Émaux et camées, intro. Jean Pommier, ed. Georges Matoré (Lille and Geneva: Giard and Droz). Émaux et camées Google Scholar

Gide, André (1958) Romans; récits et soties; œuvres lyriques, ed. Yvonne Davet and Jean-Jacques Thierry (Paris: Gallimard). Romans; récits et soties; œuvres lyriques Google Scholar

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von (1987) Römische Elegien, in Sämtliche Werke, ed. Karl Eibl, 40 vols, (Frankfurt-am-Main: Deutscher Klassiker Verlag), Band I 1: Gedichte 1756–1797, 392–441. Römische Elegien 392 441 Google Scholar

Graves, Robert (1960) [1955] The Greek Myths, 2 vols (Harmondsworth: Penguin), vol. 1. The Greek Myths 1 Google Scholar

Kapoor, Anish (2002) Marsyas (London: Tate Publishing). Marsyas Google Scholar

Mallarmé, Stéphane (1998) Poésies, ed. Bertrand Marchal (Paris: Gallimard). Poésies Google Scholar

Meyer, Conrad Ferdinand (1953?) Sämtliche Werke (Munich and Zürich: Knaur). Sämtliche Werke Google Scholar

Ovid (2004) Metamorphoses, trans. Charles Martin, ed. Bernard Knox (New York and London: Norton). Metamorphoses Google Scholar

Potts, Alex (2000) The Sculptural Imagination (New Haven and London: Yale University Press). The Sculptural Imagination Google Scholar

Rilke, Rainer Maria (1927a) [1903] ‘Auguste Rodin’, in Gesammelte Werke, 6 vols (Leipzig: Insel), Band IV. Auguste Rodin Gesammelte Werke Google Scholar

Rilke, Rainer Maria (1927b) [1923] Duineser Elegien, in Gesammelte Werke, 6 vols (Leipzig: Insel), Band III. Duineser Elegien Gesammelte Werke Google Scholar

Sartre, Jean-Paul Sartre (1996) [1943] L’Être et le néant (Paris: Gallimard). L’Être et le néant Google Scholar

If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here


Author details

Segal, Naomi