Anatomy of woman: The politics of medical culture in early modern drama
Ma, Hilda Hue
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"Anatomy of Woman: The Politics of Medical Culture in Early Modern Drama," interrogates the period's medical comprehension and construction of the female body by examining the ways in which medical discourse surfaces in Elizabethan and Jacobean drama. I argue that a developing corpus of medical discourse informed the understanding of the body articulated by Shakespeare and his contemporaries, and that this in turn contributed to the marginalization of women in early modern society. By examining medical culture alongside dramatic texts, we can reach a fuller understanding of the female body as it is re-imagined and oppressed through male systems of representation. Furthermore, taken in their cultural context, these plays emphasize the historical contingency and instability of medical discussions about anatomy and gender in sixteenth and seventeenth century England. By situating my analysis of the plays alongside cultural phenomena such as discussions about monstrosity, marriage, dissection, architecture, witch-hunts, and female monarchical rule, I sketch a tripartite relation linking medical texts, drama, and the marginalization of women.