“Knit together, closer than a wife, closer than an eye”–these are words used to describe the relationship between Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in the famed text by Stevenson.I have always been fond of this line, partly because it seems incongruous. It hardly seems to describe the problem of duality. If anything, it sounds more like descriptions of anatomy, but with the disturbing suggestion of matrimonial partnership. It suggests a problem of boundaries, does it not?
At the Dittrick Museum, we recently hosted a special exhibit and lecture on anatomy art from the 18th century, particularly the work of Jan Van Rymsdyk. In these stunning paintings and engravings, the human uterus (with child) is rendered plain. The primary body is that of the child–the containing body fades. And yet, in some of the pieces, the woman is present in her very absence, in the hewn aspect of her piece-meal parts. These headless muses and their artists’ renderings forever changed obstetrics. The knowledge was widely disseminated–it traveled far–it was reprinted and shared. So who owns those bodies? And where does one stop and the next begin? And in what ways might those bodies be knit to the artist, closer than a wife, closer than an I? All good questions. If they strike a cord with you, then you’re in luck. Coming January 7-9, 2015, there is a conference in Leuven, Belgium, dedicated to just such ideas.
Bodies Beyond Borders. The Circulation of Anatomical Knowledge, 1750-1950.
How does anatomical knowledge move from one site to another? Between 1750 and 1950 the study of anatomy underwent great changes, as a part of the development of scientific medicine, through public anatomies, as well as in the interplay between the two. How did these changes spread geographically? How did knowledge about newly discovered lesions travel from one hospital to another? What was the role of anatomical models in the spread of the public consciousness of syphilis, for example? Was the spread of this knowledge hindered by national borders, or did anatomical knowledge cross those borders easily? These questions are concerned with what James Secord terms ‘knowledge in transit’. To seek an answer to these questions, a conference focusing on the circulation of anatomical knowledge between 1750 and 1950 will be organized in Leuven from 7-9 January 2015. Confirmed speakers are Sam Alberti, Sven Dupré, Rina Knoeff, Helen MacDonald, Anna Maerker, Chloé Pirson, Natasha Ruiz-Gómez and Michael Sappol.
Additional information may be found here, on H-Net. The deadline for papers is June 1, 2014.