The Body in Question   /   Summer 2015

From the Editors

Mark Bauerlein, a professor of English at Emory University, recalls a startling pronouncement once made by a fellow academic: “Oh, it’s very important that everyone does something to the body!” What struck Bauerlein, even more than his colleague’s words, was how he meant them: “as a general moral injunction, a necessity.” That hortatory urgency, almost religious in its intensity, resonates with something deep and widespread in our culture, something powerfully anticipated in the famous closing line of Rainer Maria Rilke’s “Archaic Torso of Apollo”: “You must change your life.”

As philosopher Peter Sloterdijk argues (in a book that takes the poet’s line as its title), Rilke was one of the early prophets of the self-transformative enterprise that has become the object of so many religion-like practices that flourish in the late modern world. Self-making, or self-remaking, is at once the great liberation, challenge, and burden of our age, bound up as it with the larger project of identity (elective identity, in particular) and what we have come to call identity politics.

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