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Unswathing the Mummy: Body, Knowledge, and Writing in Gautier's "Le Roman de la momie"

CLAIRE LYU
Nineteenth-Century French Studies
Vol. 33, No. 3/4 (SPRING SUMMER 2005), pp. 308-319
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23537987
Page Count: 12
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Unswathing the Mummy: Body, Knowledge, and Writing in Gautier's "Le Roman de la momie"
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Abstract

Through a reading of Théophile Gautier's Le Roman de la momie, my paper explores nineteenth-century France's fascination with unwrapping mummies, performed as public spectacles at universal exhibitions, against the backdrop of previous centuries' practice of public dissections. Gautier's tale stages various types of openings (of the landscape, tomb, sarcophagus, mummy, and papyrus roll), in which a complex interplay of different models of openings, or "coupe," is at work: of the Parnassian poetics, the sculptural ideal, and of the scientific/medical dissection. The cross-examination between scientific and literary/artistic openings of the body reveals two competing structures of knowledge: one that cuts right through the surface and reaches depth in a straight line according to the mathematical principle of shortest path between two points, and one that moves along the surface in a horizontal path of circular tour, detour, and contour.

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