Dr Anna Maerker (KCL), Interpreting the preserved body: Making intelligible specimens in nineteenth-century anatomy


The representation of the body in three dimensions is crucial for artistic practice as well as for medical education, and anatomists and artists have long resorted to a wide range of practices and materials to represent the visual and haptic qualities of flesh. But how can we keep flesh looking (and feeling) like itself? How should we preserve flesh for the purposes of medical education? The paper will investigate the practices and publications of nineteenth-century anatomists such as Frederick and Robert Knox to highlight practical and conceptual issues of anatomical preservation. Medical researchers generally agreed on the central role of anatomical and pathological collections for teaching and research. However, preservation techniques posed significant challenges: chemicals caused discolouration, and they distorted the shapes and textures of body parts; dry specimens attracted dust and pests. How could the risk of misinterpretation of such faulty representations be minimised? The paper will highlight how anatomists responded to problems of intelligibility with a range of responses, from technological fixes to user education.

Dr Maerker’s talk will be giving at 5pm on 10th May, in Edith Morley G44.

All welcome

About English Literature at Reading

The Department of English Literature at Reading has been an internationally recognised centre for research and teaching in English Studies for over a hundred years. Our teaching system, with its emphasis on seminars and tutorial work, encourages our students to discuss ideas with tutors and other students in a relaxed and supportive atmosphere. All of our students have access to dedicated study advisors; our academic placement scheme and 'professional track' programme provide invaluable preparation for subsequent careers.
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