Heroic Anatomies

  • Jennifer Feather
Part of the Early Modern Cultural Studies book series (EMCSS)


In 1996, a German scientist, Dr. Gunther von Hagens, opened a display of human corpses preserved and posed to mixed responses. Over the subsequent thirteen years, these displays, which Dr. von Hagens entitled “Body Worlds,” have travelled all over the world, garnering fascination and no small degree of criticism. This criticism reached a high point in 2008–2009 when plastinated bodies, created by a different group, were displayed in the United States and Europe. The origin of the bodies used to create this exhibit were, according to authorities in China and New York, unclaimed Chinese corpses of executed prisoners.2 Gunther von Hagens’s 2009 response to these exhibitions, where he defends his exhibitions by placing himself “in the tradition of Renaissance anatomy,” both demonstrates the distinctive qualities of modern subjectivity and acknowledges its roots in Renaissance anatomy. Explicitly, it claims a positive relationship between the science of anatomy and the human rights of the individual human being. Certainly, an important body of scholarship sees a mutual relationship between the rise of anatomical science and the emergence of the autonomous humanist subject, whose development enables the nineteenth-century discourse of “human rights” to emerge.3


Early Modern Period Modern Notion Autonomous Subject Anatomical Text Charles Versus 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Jennifer Feather 2011

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  • Jennifer Feather

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