Department of English
2019 Rothman Faculty Summer Fellow
Dr. Yan received a Rothman Faculty Summer Fellowship for her project titled “Correspondences on the Human Frame: Anatomy, Literature, and Form in the Victorian Era”.
In 1828, a national crisis erupted in Britain following the revelation that the unmet demand for anatomical subjects in medical schools had prompted two body-snatchers, William Burke and William Hare, to commit murder for profit from sales of “fresh” bodies. As a result, the British government and public were suddenly plunged into a new era where the value and practices of anatomy needed to be redefined for a modern age. In Correspondences on the Human Frame, Yan traces this critical reshaping of anatomy as subject by uncovering a forgotten history of collaboration between scientific and literary writers attempting to negotiate what “anatomizing” should mean in the face of a major biomedical ethics scandal. Reading nineteenth-century scientific treatises alongside short stories, novels, and literary essays on anatomizing as representational practice, she argues that nineteenth-century thinkers of diverse intellectual and class backgrounds were attempting to promote “anatomy” as more than just a material practice of dissection. Recovering a series of such “lost correspondences,” Yan locates in the scientific and literary prose an idealized concept of anatomy as a universal practice aligning artists, philosophers, and scientists in the common pursuit of an ethical approach to studying and representing bodies.