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Chapter 4 - Anatomical Culture, Body-Snatching, and Nineteenth-Century Gothic

from Part I - Epistemologies

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 June 2021

Andrew Mangham
Affiliation:
University of Reading
Clark Lawlor
Affiliation:
Northumbria University, Newcastle
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Summary

In the nineteenth century the corpse became central to medical education. In Britain, a growing number of private medical schools opened throughout the country, involving the rise of the demand for dead bodies. It is exactly around the same time that Gothic fiction was revamped and offered insights into the debates around medical practice and education. This chapter explores the links between the field of anatomy and the development of Gothic fiction in Britain in the nineteenth century. It points out how the Gothic dealt with medical practitioners’ treatment of the corpse and how Gothic narratives dramatised the tension between the stealing, cutting up, preservation, and exhibition of human remains in medical collections and the central part played by anatomical knowledge in medical science. By looking at texts by John Galt, Mary Shelley, and Samuel Warren, as well as Wilkie Collins and Robert Louis Stevenson, this chapter not only shows how literary texts capitalised on the Gothic paraphernalia to foreground the regulation (or lack thereof) of the practice of anatomy before the passing of the 1832 Anatomy Act, but also highlights how the Gothic enabled authors to record cultural responses to medical practice throughout the century.

Type
Chapter
Information
Literature and Medicine
The Nineteenth Century
, pp. 74 - 94
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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