It’s difficult now to imagine how once, in a culture long ago, there were no cells or tissues, no molecules or receptors, no hormones, proteins or DNA. Just a body, with organs, sinuses, cavities, limbs, and fluids of different kinds.
This pre-cellular, pre-molecular body will be the object of discussion at a symposium titled ‘The Body on Display, from Renaissance to Enlightenment’ at Durham University, 6-7 July 2010:
At once an organ system, disciplinary target, metaphor, creation of God, cultural construction, ’self’ and receptacle for the soul, it is not surprising that the body has fallen under the attention of historians of art, gender, thought, medicine, theatre and costume, and of literary scholars, archaeologists and historical sociologists and philosophers. This symposium will look at the human and human-like body on, and as, display, between c.1400 and c.1800. We will explore the notion, and reality, of the exposure of the inner and outer human form, and the representational, visual and material cultures of the body. This was a formative (and even transformative) period for the visual and representational culture of human corporeality, witnessing the watersheds of Renaissance and Enlightenment, challenges to long-held understandings of the body and, allegedly, both the creation of the modern ’self’ and the eventual secularization of Western society.
And topics might include, e.g.: -Dissection, the medical ‘gaze’ and medical illustration -Corporeality and the flesh in the visual, written and performing arts -The body in religious iconography, hagiography and religious performance -Gesture, kinesics and the expression of emotions -Corporal punishment and bodily shaming -Clothing, garments and cosmetics and their significance