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From the eighteenth century to the present, public exhibitions of human anatomy have proved popular with a wide range of audiences, being marketed as both educational and entertaining. In Anatomy as Spectacle, Elizabeth Stephens takes us on a tour of freak shows, anatomical Venuses, museums doubling as dubious sex clinics, and the recent Body Worlds display, tracing the fascinating history of these exhibitions that gained popularity alongside the professionalization of medicine and rise of the popular spectacle.

Far from marginal, public exhibitions of the body have much to tell us about the history of popular culture and medicine, and Anatomy as Spectacle situates these displays as productive cultural spaces for the emergence of new ideas about bodily health.

Reviews

“A pleasure to read, this well-written book offers many thoughtful and provocative reflections on anatomy and exhibition and will appeal to a wide range of scholars concerned with disability, culture, and medical history.” - Maria Frawley, George Washington University

“A strong story, well documented and scholarly.” - Choice

“Anatomy as Spectacle succeeds in presenting the history of anatomy as one of the spectacular as much as the medical, demonstrating the vital role that exhibitions played in the history of the discipline. Stephen’s work fits into the phalanx of academics working on visual and material cultures of medicine, arguing that these exhibitions were never mere illustration, but that they played vital roles in the production, as well as transmission, of contemporary ideas and understandings of the body.” - Harriet Palfreyman, Medical History

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