A Cultural History of the Human Body
W. W. Norton & Company, 9780393239881, 294pp.
Publication Date: June 3, 2013
In an engaging narrative that ranges from ancient body art to plastic surgery today and from head to toe, Aldersey-Williams explores the corporeal mysteries that make us human: Why are some people left-handed and some blue-eyed? What is the funny bone, anyway? Why do some cultures think of the heart as the seat of our souls and passions, while others place it in the liver?
A journalist with a knack for telling a story, Aldersey-Williams takes part in a drawing class, attends the dissection of a human body, and visits the doctor's office and the morgue. But Anatomies draws not just on medical science and Aldersey-Williams's reporting. It draws also on the works of philosophers, writers, and artists from throughout history. Aldersey-Williams delves into our shared cultural heritage--Shakespeare to Frankenstein, Rembrandt to 2001: A Space Odyssey--to reveal how attitudes toward the human body are as varied as human history, as he explains the origins and legacy of tattooing, shrunken heads, bloodletting, fingerprinting, X-rays, and more.
From Adam's rib to van Gogh's ear to Einstein's brain, Anatomies is a treasure trove of surprising facts and stories and a wonderful embodiment of what Aristotle wrote more than two millennia ago: "The human body is more than the sum of its parts."