“From Book to Lab: Investigating the Malleable Body in Early Modern Germany”

Heidi Hausse

University of Oklahoma

Friday, February 9, 2024 3:30 pm EST

Online Event

Heidi Hausse presents “From Book to Lab: Investigating the Malleable Body in Early Modern Germany.” In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, a complex pool of practices and techniques developed to surgically remove limbs and artificially replace them. The activities of surgeons, artisans, and amputees shifted expectations about the number and degree of interventions possible. Their efforts gave rise to the “malleable body”—a growing perception of a body whose limbs could be shaped and reshaped under the surgeon’s scalpel and in the artisan’s workshop. While surgical treatises provide rich evidence of surgeons’ perspectives, material culture supplies insights into the contributions of amputees that are so elusive in written sources. This talk explores how my work with early modern mechanical hands in a recent monograph led to a collaborative project between a historian and a mechanical engineer. Taking the investigation into the lab, the new project aims to devise an experimental approach to learn about premodern prosthetic technology. What can an object tell us about those who shaped and experienced a profound shift in perceptions surrounding the body over four centuries ago?