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Tactile PoeticsTouch and Contemporary Writing$
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Sarah Jackson

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780748685318

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748685318.001.0001

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Ondaatje’s Skin-Effects

(p.32) Chapter 2 Expeausition
Tactile Poetics

Sarah Jackson

Edinburgh University Press

Developing Didier Anzieu's account of the skin as a palimpsest that preserves traces of experience inscribed on its surface, this chapter reads the ‘palimpsestuous’ quality of Michael Ondaatje's work. Discussing his novels In The Skin of a Lion and The English Patient, it reads the co-implication of the body and the text as a means of mapping aesthetic movement and form. The chapter argues that in disrupting the conventions of the realist novel, Ondaatje presents a textual skin that is both mobile and mutable. Comparing this skin to Michel Serres's discussion of the syrrhèse or a cloud of dust, it suggests that Ondaatje's ‘tactile poetics’ demand a different mode of reading. Rather than focusing on the motif of inscription in Ondaatje's work, this chapter employs Jean-Luc Nancy's theory of exscription in order to interrogate the traces that are ‘inscribed-outside’ the text. Reading the skin-effects of Ondaatje's work, it demonstrates that language is subject to its own expeausition.

Keywords:   dust, expeausition, exscription, palimpsest, skin-effect, syrrhèse, Didier Anzieu, Jean-Luc Nancy, Michael Ondaatje, Michel Serres

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