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Screening the Body

Screening the Body: Tracing Medicine’s Visual Culture

Lisa Cartwright
Copyright Date: 1995
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Screening the Body
    Book Description:

    Traces the fascinating history of scientific film during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and shows that early experiments with cinema are important precedents of contemporary medical techniques such as ultrasound. Lisa Cartwright brings to light eccentric projects in the history of science and medicine, such as Thomas Edison's sensational attempt to image the brain with X rays before a public audience, and the efforts of doctors to use the motion picture camera to capture movements of the body, from the virtually imperceptible flow of blood to epileptic seizures.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8525-7
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xviii)

    In the introduction to a recent collection of essays on the representation of women’s bodies in debates about pregnancy and abortion, the historian Barbara Duden describes the emergence of the term “life” as, in her words, an idol. Duden’s project takes as its starting point the familiar and dispassionate use of this term in public discourse around pregnancy, women’s bodies, and obstetrics. This term leads her to consider what she describes as the graphic techniques that were used to “flay” the female body and turn it inside out to expose the body of interest—the fetus—to public view, a...

  5. CHAPTER 1 Science and the Cinema
    (pp. 1-16)

    In the biographical files of the New York Academy of Medicine, sharing a page with news entries documenting French claims to international railway speed and air flight records, appears a 1954 obituary for Auguste Lumière, patriarch of the cinema.¹ The appearance of Lumière’s obituary among these items is not surprising. The Cinématographe, an instrument for the recording and projection of living motion invented by Lumière and his brother Louis in 1895, certainly would seem to deserve a place alongside these technologies of movement.² However, the obituarist barely notes Lumière’s reputation as a founder of the cinema. Instead, he extols his...

  6. CHAPTER 2 “Experiments of Destruction”: Cinematic Inscriptions of Physiology
    (pp. 17-46)

    The French physiologist Claude Bernard stated in 1878 that “there is an arrangement in the living being, a kind of regulated activity, which must never be neglected, because it is in truth the most striking characteristic of living beings.”¹ Though Bernard never used photographic motion studies in his experiments, serial photography (and, later, cinematography) clearly suggested to other physiologists of his generation the potential not only for observing but for intervening in the dynamic “regulated activity” that, for physiologists, best characterized the living beings they studied.

    The ideological implications of observation of and intervention in the physiological “arrangement” of the...

  7. CHAPTER 3 An Etiology of the Neurological Gaze
    (pp. 47-80)

    Foucault has shown that the institution of pathological anatomy entailed a shift in focus from symptoms to organs, sites, and causes. With the rise of physiology later in the century, the body was reconfigured as a system, a network of functions taking place across organs and sites. Viewing the body and its parts as static entities and reading its surface alone were no longer viable methods of determining pathology. Of what use, then, were conventional body images—representations of the surface of the body? Certainly they have not dropped out of medical practice. Their persistence is more than evident in...

  8. CHAPTER 4 A Microphysics of the Body: Microscopy and the Cinema
    (pp. 81-106)

    What can you tell about a man without seeing him, say, from an examination of the photo?” asked Robert Lincoln Watkins, a New York physician, in a publication of 1902. The photo in question is not a conventional portrait but a photomicrograph—an image shot through the lens of the microscope. “I cannot tell. . . what he looks like in the face any more than the ancients could judge Socrates by his looks,” Watkins explained, “but I think there is some disintegration taking place in the man.” He goes on to make a detailed diagnosis of the man’s condition...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Decomposing the Body: X Rays and the Cinema
    (pp. 107-142)

    To many film historians, 1895 is the year of the “birth” of the cinema; for historians of technology and medicine, however, 1895 is the year of the discovery of the X ray. This chapter takes up the historical convergence of the cinema and radiography. In previous chapters, my focus has been intrainstitutional production and uses of films in medical science. My intention was to provide an analysis of laboratory discourse and culture. With this chapter, I begin to give closer attention to the reception of the moving X ray in the broader culture. As an imaging technique, the X-ray image...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Women and the Public Culture of Radiography
    (pp. 143-170)

    In previous chapters my focus was primarily on the subjectivity of the technician and the status of the body as object under the medical gaze. In this final chapter, I turn my attention directly to the communities and individuals who are imaged within that gaze. I consider the way that one social group, women, not only have been analyzed through X rays but have contributed in complex and conflicting ways to the establishment of a popular X-ray culture. I stated at the outset of this book that my concern here is the intertext between popular and professional techniques for organizing...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 171-188)
  12. Index
    (pp. 189-200)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 201-201)