Reading and Replicating Bodies: Mimicry in Medicine and Culture, 1790-1914
26th March 2015. 10.45-18.00 (registration from 9.45)

One-day Interdisciplinary workshop, funded by the Wellcome Trust.
The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH), University of Oxford

In the Nineteenth century, to read a body was to replicate it. From making anatomical drawings to designing prosthetics, medical practices duplicated human tissue on an unprecedented scale. Yet this urge to copy was also tainted, and literary depictions of scientists – from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to H. G. Wells’ The Island of Dr Moreau – cast the desire to replicate a living body as absorbing and abhorrent in turn. Replication was also an important topic in the era’s sciences of mind. Writers such as Charles Bell, Charles Darwin and James Mark Baldwin, depictedhumans as mirrors, believing an innate compulsion to imitate could explain the development of sympathy (later empathy) language and laws. Yet, here imitation was also problematic, framed as a primitive impulse, most violently displayed by the period’s ‘othered’ bodies: hysterics, non-Europeans, women, the deaf and the degenerate. This workshop will explore how Victorian science, medicine and the arts interacted to construct the body as an object and subject of imitation. It will consider how much of today’s ambivalence about replicating bodies – from ethical questions about cloning to the much-hyped concept of ‘mirror neurons’ – do we owe to practices and concepts from the Nineteenth century.

* Registration is free, but booking is essential as places are limited.*

* Postgraduate Bursaries Available*

Organised by Dr Will Abberley (Oxford) and Dr Tiffany Watt Smith (QMUL

SPEAKERS include

  • Christopher Pittard (University of Portsmouth): ‘V for Ventriloquism: Powers of Vocal Mimicry in Henry Cockton’s Valentine Vox’.
  • Tiziana Morosetti (University of Oxford): ‘Exotic Bodies on the 19th-century British Stage: Empire in Miniature’.
  • Louise Lee (University of Roehampton), ‘Re-reading the Scientist as Specimen: Edward Lear, the Fugitive Poets and the Politics of Whimsy’.
  • Carolyn Burdett (Birkbeck, University of London), ‘Mimicry, Motor Types and Memory: Vernon Lee and Aesthetic Empathy’.
  • Angie Dustan (University of Kent) ‘Reading Sculptural Replication: Authentic Bodies in Victorian Literature’

Two postgraduate bursaries are available to cover the costs of travel to and from Oxford and one-night’s accommodation. To apply, please email the organisers with a brief bio and personal statement (max 400 words) explaining why you should receive a bursary before the deadline of Friday the 27th February 2015. Preference will be given to applicants whose research interests align with the workshop theme and those who will have further to travel.

The workshop is free to attend, but spaces are limited. To reserve a place, please book a ticket here.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: