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Extra info for Anatomy live : performance and the operating theatre
The video editor has chosen to cut away to Professor Lee every now and then: at these moments, he is the very model of the restrained, careful overseer, the embodiment of a pure, disinterested man of science, craning his neck to peer into an eviscerated body cavity, nodding approval, casting a wary eye over the entire affair. It is pure theatre: titillating, mocking transgression. We shouldn’t be too quick to condemn this exercise, however, as mere entertainment, or as a betrayal of science to a theatrical populism.
José van Dijck is a Professor of Media and Culture at the University of Amsterdam and Dean of the Humanities Department. Her research areas include media and science, (digital) media technologies, and television and culture. She is the author of several books, including Manufacturing Babies and Public Consent. Debating the New Reproductive Technologies (New York, New York University Press, 1995); ImagEnation. Popular Images of Genetics (New York, New York University Press, 1998). The chapter ‘Digital Cadavers’ was taken from her book The Transparent Body.
Anatomy lessons, much like the Elizabethan tragedies that ended with the death of all characters, had a decidedly morbid plot, moving from a fresh and preferably perfectly intact corpse to what was basically not more than a gnawed-off skeleton. Illustrious skeletons on the walls of the anatomical theatre foreshadowed the cadaver’s inevitable fate. The anatomist, in his public lesson, articulated the relation between the dead body on the table and the living body of the spectator. Catharsis was only immanent if crime and punishment were theatrically packaged in a moral performance.