CFP: Victorian Body Parts

CFP: Victorian Body Parts

St Bartholomew’s Pathology Museum, Clerkenwell, Saturday 14th September 2013

Keynote Speakers: Dr Katharina Boehm (Universität Regensburg), Dr Kate Hill (Lincoln) and Dr Tiffany Watt-Smith (QMUL)

“Mr Wegg, if you was brought here loose in a bag to be articulated, I’d name your smallest bones blindfold equally with your largest, as fast as I could pick ’em out, and I’d sort ’em all, and sort your wertebrae, in a manner that would equally surprise and charm you.” (Charles Dickens, Our Mutual Friend, 1865)

Why were the Victorians so interested in atomizing the body? What was causing nineteenth-century bodies to come apart at the seams? From articulated bones to beating hearts, from wooden legs to hair bracelets, from death masks to glass eyes, the Victorian body was chattering with its own discorporation.

The results of this fragmentation are successors to the recent scholarly work on material culture in examining the atomisation of the body as a symptom of being surrounded by the commodities generated by the nineteenth century. From objects under glass domes to pieces of the body in glass cases (authentic specimens of which fill St Bartholomew’s Pathology Museum), commodification and dissection have much in common.

This conference thus seeks to explore, develop and enrich perspectives on the numerous and varied ways in which the Victorians approached their anatomy, bringing together postgraduate, early career and established researchers to consider why body parts provided such an urgent and stimulating focus within the nineteenth-century cultural imagination.

Possible topics could include, but are by no means limited to:

§ Mementos of the body and the culture of mourning

§ Disability and the “substitution” of the body part

§ Dress and the exaggeration of, or emphasis on, elements of the body

§ Darwin and bodily means of expression in science

§ The “queering” of the body part

§ Measuring the body: deviation from the standards of Western patriarchy

§ Preserving the body: collecting and museum cultures

Proposals of up to 300 words should be sent to victorianbodyparts@gmail.com by Friday 31st May 2013.

Blog: victorianbodyparts.wordpress.com Twitter: @victbodyparts

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