Alexander Monro Primus and the Moral Theatre of Anatomy

Alexander Monro Primus and the Moral Theatre of Anatomy Anita Guerrini University of California, Santa Barbara Public anatomy was an important part of public culture in early modern Europe. Its impact can be seen in terms both of the theatricality of public demonstration and of its moral implications. Early modern anatomists endeavored to entertain, to enlighten, to bedazzle, and to offer moral edification, as well as to educate their audiences about the structure of the human body. In this period, public anatomical demonstration became what I call "moral theatre," a demonstration touching on the interconnections between religion, ritual, and secular society. I define moral theatre in the context of anatomy as a public performance intended to induce in its audience such emotions as awe, fear, and compassion--emotions similar to those provoked by religious practices.1 While historians have discussed eighteenth-century natural philosophy lectures in terms of spectacle, particularly citing displays of electricity, the manipulation of life itself was even more dramatic than electrical experiments.2 Live animals were central to the experience of early modern anatomical demonstration. They could demonstrate functions that the human cadaver could not; but in addition, they vested anatomy with broader moral meaning. As with other sorts of natural philosophy, witnessing such events led to http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The Eighteenth Century University of Pennsylvania Press

Alexander Monro Primus and the Moral Theatre of Anatomy

The Eighteenth Century, Volume 47 (1) – Nov 8, 2006

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Publisher
University of Pennsylvania Press
Copyright
Copyright © 2006 Texas Tech University Press. All rights reserved.
ISSN
1935-0201
Publisher site
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Abstract

Anita Guerrini University of California, Santa Barbara Public anatomy was an important part of public culture in early modern Europe. Its impact can be seen in terms both of the theatricality of public demonstration and of its moral implications. Early modern anatomists endeavored to entertain, to enlighten, to bedazzle, and to offer moral edification, as well as to educate their audiences about the structure of the human body. In this period, public anatomical demonstration became what I call "moral theatre," a demonstration touching on the interconnections between religion, ritual, and secular society. I define moral theatre in the context of anatomy as a public performance intended to induce in its audience such emotions as awe, fear, and compassion--emotions similar to those provoked by religious practices.1 While historians have discussed eighteenth-century natural philosophy lectures in terms of spectacle, particularly citing displays of electricity, the manipulation of life itself was even more dramatic than electrical experiments.2 Live animals were central to the experience of early modern anatomical demonstration. They could demonstrate functions that the human cadaver could not; but in addition, they vested anatomy with broader moral meaning. As with other sorts of natural philosophy, witnessing such events led to

Journal

The Eighteenth CenturyUniversity of Pennsylvania Press

Published: Nov 8, 2006

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