What does it mean to be nude? What does the nude do? In a series of constantly surprising reflections, Jean-Luc Nancy and Federico Ferrari encounter the nude as an opportunity for thinking in a way that is stripped bare of all received meanings and preconceived forms. In the course of engagements with twenty-six separate images, the authors show how the nudes produced by painters and photographers expose this bareness of thought and leave us naked on the verge of a sense that is always nascent, always fleeting, on the surface of the skin, on the surface of the image.
While the nude is a symbol of truth in philosophy and art alike, what the nude definitively and uniquely reveals is unclear. In Being Nude: The Skin of Images, the authors argue that the nude is always presented as both vulnerable in its exposure and shy of conceptualization, giving a sense of the ultimate ineffability of the meaning of being. Although the nude represents the revealed nature of truth, nude figures hold a part of themselves back, keeping in reserve the reality of their history, parts of their present selves, and also their future possibilities for change, development, and demise. Skin is itself a type of clothing, and stripping away exterior layers of fabric does not necessarily lead to grasping the truth. In this way, the difference between being clothed and being nude is diminished. The images that inspire the authors to contemplate the nudity of being show many ways in which one can and cannot be nude, and many ways of being in relation to oneself and to others, clothed and unclothed.
JEAN-LUC NANCY is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the Universite Marc Bloch, Strasbourg. Among the most recent of his many books to be published in English are Corpus; Dis-Enclosure: The Deconstruction of Christianity; Noli me tangere: On the Raising of the Body; The Truth of Democracy; Adoration: The Deconstruction of Christianity II; Corpus II: Writings on Sexuality; and The Pleasure in Drawing (all Fordham).
Federico Ferrari teaches Contemporary Philosophy and Art Theory at the Brera Academy of Fine Arts in Milan. His most recent books are: Il re è nudo. Aristocrazia e anarchia dell'arte (2011), L'insieme vuoto: Per una pragmatica dell'immagine (2011), and L'insieme vuoto: Per una pragmatica dell'immagine (2013).
Anne O’Byrne is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Stony Brook University. She is co-translator of Nancy’s Being Singular Plural and author of Natality and Finitude.
Carlie Anglemire is a Ph.D. student of philosophy at Stony Brook University.
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