The Art of Cruelty: A Reckoning (Paperback)

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Staff Reviews

This is one of the best works of criticism in recent memory.  Nelson examines everything from Yoko Ono’s weird performance art to the contemporary horror flick in a sweeping attempt to understand the nature of cruelty in art and determine how moral beings might navigate a world enriched and complicated by it.  Her voice is incendiary, sensitive, and thoroughly unpretentious.  Though I was a fan way back at Jane: A Murder, The Art of Cruelty put Maggie Nelson on the map as a thinker to watch.
— From 2012 Pick of the Year: The Art of Cruelty


Writing in the tradition of Susan Sontag and Elaine Scarry, Maggie Nelson has emerged as one of our foremost cultural critics with this landmark work about representations of cruelty and violence in art. From Sylvia Plath's poetry to Francis Bacon's paintings, from the Saw franchise to Yoko Ono's performance art, Nelson's nuanced exploration across the artistic landscape ultimately offers a model of how one might balance strong ethical convictions with an equally strong appreciation for work that tests the limits of taste, taboo, and permissibility.

Product Details
ISBN: 9780393343144
ISBN-10: 0393343146
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Publication Date: August 13th, 2012
Pages: 288
Language: English