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Anat Rec B New Anat. 2004 Mar;277(1):14-20.

Gunther von Hagens and Body Worlds part 2: The anatomist as priest and prophet.

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  • 1Department of Cellular and Structural Biology, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, USA. moorec@uthscsa.edu

Abstract

Part 1 of this two-part series highlighted tensions between the anatomical quest for scientific knowledge about the human interior and artistic representations of the anatomized body, contrasting the roles of Goethe's scientific Prosektor and humanistic Proplastiker-roles disturbingly fused in Gunther von Hagens. Part 2 first examines religious interpretations of the human body that fuel the tensions manifest in anatomy art. The body in Western cultures is a sacred text amenable to interpretation as handiwork of God, habitation for the soul, and vehicle for resurrection. As handiwork of God the body beckons the anatomist's scalpel, helping establish dissection as the hallmark of Western medicine. The body as divinely designed machine encompasses the idea of an indwelling soul expressing its will in actions mediated through the intricate network of muscles-an understanding reflected in the oft occurring muscle men of early anatomical textbooks. Interconnections of body and soul in medieval somatic spirituality are examined with reference to ideas of resurrection and their impact on anatomical illustration. Part 2 concludes with consideration of von Hagens as priest and prophet, culminating in the Promethean impulse that recognizes not God but ourselves as proper owners and molders of our destiny, embodied in the plastinator's visionary quest to create the superhuman.

Copyright 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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