‘Il corpo incantato’. Medicine, Magic and Aesthetics of ‘unconscious cerebration’

  • Alessandra Violi University of Bergamo
Keywords: William Benjamin Carpenter, Unconscious cerebration, Ideo-motor, Embodiment, William James, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Magic


The essay explores the notion of ‘unconscious cerebration’ elaborated by British physiologist William Benjamin Carpenter in the first half of the nineteenth century, foregrounding its hybrid genealogy and its afterlife in both science and magic, as well as its transnational impact on the arts and psychology as an already available alternative to the Freudian unconscious. Carpenter’s idea of a corporeal unconscious is traced to the intersections of (occult) science, literature and visual culture, but also comparatively as it rippled off into European, American and Russian cultures, offering a shared notion of a bodily, physiological nonconscious that the Freudian tradition in psychoanalysis has long eclipsed and obscured. Italian Futurism is taken as a test case of the rich, and still underexplored, potentials of Carpenter’s intuition for an archeology both of  ‘the unconscious’ and of contemporary returns in the humanities to materiality and embodiment.


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How to Cite
Violi, A. (2021). ‘Il corpo incantato’. Medicine, Magic and Aesthetics of ‘unconscious cerebration’. Between, 11(21), 303-327. https://doi.org/10.13125/2039-6597/4383