The Anatomy of Anatomia: Dissection and the Organization of Knowledge in British Literature, 1500-1800

by Landers, Matthew Scott

Abstract (Summary)
This dissertation develops a conceptual history of human anatomy, both as a discipline and as an epistemological model. Building on recent scholarship in the history of science, I argue that the basic organization of anatomical inquiry inspired a number of literary productions during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. This project counters important critical trends of the last five decades, which have focused on the ambiguous characterization of an anatomical genre without providing sufficient medical context. I argue that intellectual history reveals a persistent epistemological analogy between the body and textual arrangements of human knowledge. By examining this analogical structure, it is possible to theorize about the components and requirements of anatomical inquiry. Chapter One examines the religious and contexts of anatomy in ancient Greece and medieval Persia and Arabia. In looking at the cosmological doctrines of both societies, I attempt to answer questions about the absence of human dissection in ancient cultures. In the process I identify an alternative mode of inquiry, which I call cosmo-anatomy. Chapter Two discusses the influence of Andreas Vesalius famous De humani corporis fabrica on the organization of anatomical texts in seventeenth-century England. I contend that Vesalius innovative text sets the stage for both medical and literary anatomical arrangements, including such works as Robert Burtons The Anatomy of Melancholy. Chapter Three discusses the poetic backlash against Copernican physics in John Donnes Anatomy of the World. I contend that Donne adapts his anatomy to reveal the fundamental influence of traditional cosmologies on the semiotics of metaphysical poetry. Chapter Four explores the narratological structure of Laurence Sternes Tristram Shandy. I investigate the role of memory reconstruction in shaping Tristrams autobiography, highlighting, in the process, the influence of Enlightenment theories of the brain on the digressive condition of Sternes narrative. Chapter Five considers the importance of the anatomical analogy on philosophical encyclopedias of the eighteenth century. I look as well at Leibnizs plan for the universal library, arguing that the structure of anatomy influences Enlightenment attempts to organize vast amounts of information in a meaningful manner.
Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:Kevin L. Cope; William Boelhower; Elisabeth Oliver; Robert Hamm, Jr.; John Beggs

School:Louisiana State University in Shreveport

School Location:USA - Louisiana

Source Type:Master's Thesis



Date of Publication:04/15/2009

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