Professor Lisa Safford
Western history is rich in examples of art devoted to topics in medicine, and several new publications attest to this, revealing examples rarely seen assembled in great quality and magnitude. Medicine in Art (Bordin and D’Ambrogio, 2010) and The Art of Medicine (Anderson, Barnes, and Shackleton, 2011), among others, present a wealth of imagery devoted to anatomy, illness, disability, addiction, hospitals, physicians, nursing, healing, birth, and death. This short course will explore these themes as they evolve over the span of Western history from the age of the Egyptians some five millennia ago to the era of modern germ pathology and antisepsis in the late 19th century, and Freudian psychoanalysis of the early 20th. Using the Bordin volume as primary source, the course content will be supplemented with articles related to canonical works (such as Leonardo’s Renaissance era anatomy drawings, Rembrandt’s The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Tulp, 1632, or Thomas Eakin’s The Gross Clinic, 1876). Although the text is arranged thematically, the course will follow a chronological trajectory in order for students to relate art works to developments in scientific understanding, especially during the past five centuries. Critical to the course will be a working understanding of the meaning and purposes of art works, their intended audiences, and their union of human physiological or psychological subject and aesthetic presentation. Students will write brief response papers to the readings and on the final day of class present a short oral assessment of an object of their choice.