Jessica M. Dandona on The Transparent Women: Medical Visualities in Fin-de-Siècle Europe and the United States, 1880–1914:
My current book project, titled The Transparent Woman: Medical Visualities in Fin-de-Siècle Europe and the United States, 1880–1914, comprises a close look at techniques of medical visualization at the end of the 19th century. In this work, I investigate how physicians in three early centers of medical training—Paris, Edinburgh, and Philadelphia—conceptualized the bodies of women and infants in the context of fears regarding national decline and degeneration. In this period, an increasing access to reproductive technologies such as color lithography, as well as the development of minimally invasive methods of medical visualization such as x-rays, rapidly transformed the medical field into a profession that was profoundly visual in emphasis. My study thus traces the transition from a predominantly tactile, haptic exploration of the human body represented by the act of dissection to a more technological, visual approach that in effect dematerializes the body, transforming it from object to image. My study signals a new direction in the study of the intersection of art and science in three regards: its focus on the decade of the 1890s as a moment of profound epistemological transformation, its understanding of medical discourse as operating across national borders, and its close attention to disparate but inherently linked forms of media both “high” and “low.” I am confident that my work offers valuable insights into the foundations of modern medical science and into forms of visuality that continue to prevail in the medical discourse of our own time as they did in 1890.
More about Dandona:
Jessica M. Dandona is Professor of Liberal Arts at MCAD, where she teaches courses on modernism, gender, curation and conservation, imperialism, and the body. Dr. Dandona earned her Ph.D. in History of Art from U.C. Berkeley in 2010 and her undergraduate degree, magna cum laude, in the History of Art and French Studies from Brown University in 1996. As an undergraduate, she also studied at the Université de Paris I (Sorbonne) and the École du Louvre and, as a Fulbright Fellow, at Université Laval in Québec. Dr. Dandona has held teaching appointments at Wake Forest University and U.C. Berkeley. Her book Nature and the Nation in Fin-de-Siècle France: The Art of Emile Gallé was published by Routledge in 2017. Dr. Dandona has presented her research at numerous national and international conferences including, most recently, Unveiling the Body (University of Manchester) and the College Art Association Annual Conference (2020) and the SECAC Annual Conference, the 10th European Spring School on History of Science and Popularization (Spain), The Coming of Age of the Public Fetus (Uppsala University, Sweden), and the Association for Art History Annual Conference (2019). She has received a number of grants and fellowships in support of her research, including a US–UK Fulbright Scholar Fellowship (2018–19); Drexel University Fellowship in the History of Women and Medicine; Boston Medical Library Fellowship; Franklin Travel Grant, American Philosophical Society; Evelyn S. Nation Fellowship, Huntington Library; and the Osler Library Research Travel Grant, McGill University (all 2018).
Image credit: Gustave-Joseph Witkowski, Anatomie iconoclastique, Vol 5: Oeil [Eye]. Paris: G. Steinheil, ca. 1880–84.