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Haptic ModernismTouch and the Tactile in Modernist Writing$
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Abbie Garrington

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780748641741

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748641741.001.0001

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Horrible Haptics

Horrible Haptics

Chapter:
(p.170) Chapter 6 Horrible Haptics
Source:
Haptic Modernism
Author(s):

Abbie Garrington

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9780748641741.003.0007

This final chapter consider the moment when hands run amok, that is, when the hand’s role as executive tool and as symbol of human agency goes awry. Tracing the history of the severed hand tale, the chapter suggests that stories about severed hands, and the film adaptations of those stories, proliferate in the modernist period. The chapter considers the reasons why the human hand is a creature of such fascination for modernist writers, as well as assessing the prompts for the conferral of that ‘creature’ status upon the hand. The chapter considers, in particular, Bram Stoker’s The Jewel of Seven Stars (1904), and Maurice Renard’s The Hands of Orlac (1920). The latter is of particular interest since it describes a battle for control over a single pair of hands which is waged between a pianist and a surgeon, two figures which this study has considered to be men of ‘hand-made work’, to borrow a concept from Jacques Derrida. After considering, amongst other hand issues, legal mortmain and the practice of automatic writing, this chapter concludes Haptic Modernism by suggesting the reasons for modernist panic regarding hands-gone-rogue, and by offering a list of hand-associated figures that have structured this study as a whole.

Keywords:   Severed hand, Agency, Pianist, Surgeon, Mortmain, Automatic writing, Bram Stoker, Maurice Renard, Jacques Derrida

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