Strange anatomy: Gertrude Stein and the avant-garde embryo

Hypatia 21 (1):15-34 (2006)
: Today's personable, sanitized images of human embryos and fetuses require an audience that is literally and metaphorically distanced from dead specimens. Yet scientists must handle dead specimens to produce embryological knowledge, which only then can be transformed into beautiful photographs and talking fetuses. I begin with an account of Gertrude Stein's experience making a model of a fetal brain. Her tactile encounter is contrasted to the avant-garde artistic tradition that later came to dominate embryo imagery. This essay shows the embryo visualizations portrayed in a contemporary coffee-table book about gestational development to be a remarkable political achievement predicated, in part, on keeping hidden the unsavory details of anatomical technique that transform dead specimens into icons of life
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