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    The Cutman: boxing, the male body and the wound

    Nead, Lynda (2013) The Cutman: boxing, the male body and the wound. Sports, Ethics and Philosophy 7 (4), pp. 368-378. ISSN 1751-1321.

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    ‘A cutman kneels beside the fighter … [he] works quickly… He knows the fighter wants to be anywhere but here, seen like this. It’s more than blood pouring onto the canvas. It’s pride, ego, hope. The cutman’s job is to keep these things out of the puddle forming between them’ (Jones 2008). Boxing is arguably one of the most visually arresting of sports, its history punctuated with intense, expressive images. This paper examines one category of boxing picture, the photograph of the wounded boxer with a cut, open and bleeding, above his eye. As in the classical legend of the warrior Achilles, the cut above the eye is the boxer’s deadly weakness, the single point of vulnerability in the otherwise ideal, hardened masculine body. The cut, with its spongy tissue and flowing blood, opens up the otherwise contained and contoured body, it represents a soft, feminised man, rather than the male body as metal tool. These themes recall Klaus Theweleit’s ‘Male Fantasies’ (1987), a psychoanalytic account of the violence of the German Freikorps as they fought the revolutionary German working class. Using diaries and letters written by the troops, Theweleit examines their language and imagery and sets out their hatred of women’s sexual bodies, their dread of loss of self and fixed boundaries and of being engulfed and annihilated by the formlessness of the red masses. Drawing on these arguments and the aesthetics of the ideal male body, it is possible to argue that the fascination of the image of the bleeding cut above the boxer’s eye, is as a sign of the beginning of the unravelling of the male warrior body ego and its dissolution into soft, formless matter. Analysing the photographic image of the boxer’s cut face and the aesthetic and bodily traditions on which it draws, this paper concludes that an interdisciplinary methodology, based on art history and the philosophy of sport, can tell us much about the cultural meanings of the athletic male body.


    Item Type: Article
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Historical Studies
    Depositing User: Lynda Nead
    Date Deposited: 14 Jan 2021 14:20
    Last Modified: 02 Aug 2023 18:06


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