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Intermedial anatomy: nineteenth century literature and collections culture through the Cole Library of early medicine and zoology

Burke, V. (2018) Intermedial anatomy: nineteenth century literature and collections culture through the Cole Library of early medicine and zoology. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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Abstract/Summary

This thesis takes the concept of anatomical intermediality, defined as the organic interactions between the media used in the display of museum specimens, as one of its central concerns. The project uses the Cole Library of Early Medicine and Zoology, at the University of Reading, to consider the way in which nineteenth-century anatomy museums and their objects were interpreted through their surrounding media. In particular, it examines the dialogue between museums and literature, focusing on how anatomical institutions borrowed literary techniques to legitimize their objects and to enhance their respectability; plus how literature incorporated curatorial techniques such as ordering and interpretation to demonstrate how the body was a complex and vital source of knowledge. This thesis employs the ‘zoobibliophile’ approach of the library’s collector, Professor Francis J. Cole (1872-1959), to consider how a thorough knowledge of bodies and books can inform our approaches and our comprehension of both. Using this methodology, the project uses Cole’s own work and the holdings in his library to create ‘border cases’ – specifically, a museum or type of specimen that provides insight into wider cultural issues – to reveal the dialogue between literature, the case study and its contexts. These border cases use the library’s holdings to move through various institutions which were troubled by anxieties about the propriety of display, and the bodies they present, including: the Hunterian in the Royal College of Surgeons, London, and its representation in Household Words; the publications issued by the now defunct Kahn’s Museum of Anatomy and Pathology, London, and the representation of the body in Wilkie Collins’s The Law and the Lady (1875); nineteenth-century taxidermy guides and the taxidermised body in Charles Dickens’s Our Mutual Friend (1864-65).

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Mangham, A.
Thesis/Report Department:School of Literature and Languages
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Literature and Languages > English Literature
ID Code:84892

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