Secrets of women: gender, generation, and the origins of human dissection
Winner, 2009 William Welch Medal given by the American Association for the History of Medicine. and Winner, 2007 Margaret W. Rossiter Prize given by the History of Science Society (HSS).
Toward the end of the Middle Ages, medical writers and philosophers began to devote increasing attention to what they called "women's secrets," by which they meant female sexuality and generation. At the same time, Italian physicians and surgeons began to open human bodies in order to study their functions and the illnesses that afflicted them, culminating in the great illustrated anatomical treatise of Andreas Vesalius in 1543. Katharine Park traces these two closely related developments through a series of case studies of women whose bodies were dissected after their deaths: an abbess, a lactating virgin, several patrician wives and mothers, and an executed criminal. Drawing on a variety of texts and images, she explores the history of women's bodies in Italy between the late thirteenth and the mid-sixteenth centuries in the context of family identity, religious observance, and women's health care.
Secrets of Women explodes the myth that medieval religious prohibitions hindered the practice of human dissection in medieval and Renaissance Italy, arguing that female bodies, real and imagined, played a central role in the history of anatomy during that time. The opened corpses of holy women revealed sacred objects, while the opened corpses of wives and mothers yielded crucial information about where babies came from and about the forces that shaped their vulnerable flesh. In the process, what male writers knew as the "secrets of women" came to symbolize the most difficult challenges posed by human bodiesóchallenges that dissection promised to overcome. Park's study of women's bodies and men's attempts to know themóand through these efforts to know their ownódemonstrates the centrality of gender to the development of early modern anatomy.
56 pages matching learned in this book
Results 1-3 of 56
What people are saying - Write a review
Review: Secrets of Women: Gender, Generation, and the Origins of Human DissectionUser Review - Emily Sours - Goodreads
I haven't been this interested in a nonfiction book in a long time! I enjoyed every part of it. After having read many books about dissection in past times, I thought there would never be a new angle ... Read full review
Review: Secrets of Women: Gender, Generation, and the Origins of Human DissectionUser Review - Ruth - Goodreads
Incredible story about the canonization of dissection in 14th and 15th c. Italy as the preeminent way to know our bodies, and how these practices relate to women's bodies, perceived as "allusive and ... Read full review
Secrets of Women
3 other sections not shown