“This Seemingly So Solid Body”: Philosophical Anatomy and Victorian Fiction Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Yan, Rae
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of English and Comparative Literature
  • We often presume that “anatomy” is, simply, the scientific practice of deconstructing and dissecting the body. “‘This Seemingly So Solid Body’: Philosophical Anatomy and Victorian Fiction,” returns us to a period in the nineteenth-century when stable ideas of what it meant to anatomize and who could be an anatomist were undergoing serious challenge by a group of investigators interested in a now forgotten epistemology: philosophical anatomy. In the most straightforward sense of the term, philosophical anatomy describes the attempt to find universal forms and ideal structures common to all organisms through the practices of comparative anatomy. Philosophical anatomists saw the work of anatomy as one not specific to scientific communities, but common across many disciplines. I argue that philosophical anatomy reconstitutes anatomizing as more than a reductive, materialist science. Anatomizing, in this context, exceeds the simple dissection and reduction of human and animal bodies and becomes, instead, a creative reimagining of how such bodies relate to each other and even to non-human forces and energies. Studying the ways in which Robert Louis Stevenson, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, and George Eliot engage philosophical anatomy in their literary works, I reveal how philosophical anatomy profoundly shapes our present representational and interpretive practices.
Date of publication
Resource type
  • McGowan, John
  • Langbauer, Laurie
  • Moskal, Jeanne
  • Stern, Kimberly
  • Taylor, Beverly
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Graduation year
  • 2018

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