The University of Wisconsin Press

History of Science / Cultural Studies / History / Medicine and Technology


Sexual Visions
Images of Gender in Science and Medicine between the Eighteenth and Twentieth Centuries
Ludmilla Jordanova

Science and Literature

“Whether it is the dance of the seven veils, revealing glimpses of the naked body beneath, or a splitting of flesh to reveal tissue, organ and bone, images of the female body function, according to Jordanova, as the most powerful symbols of scientific knowledge. Ultimately, she argues, the biological sex of the patient or cadaver under the surgeon’s knife doesn’t matter because the very process of entering and exploring the body’s secrets has become charged with sexual metaphor.”Michigan Quarterly Review

In six interdisciplinary and wide-ranging essays, Ludmilla Jordanova analyzes scientific and medical representations of gender in advertising, paintings, film, literature, sculpture, wax anatomical models, and professional and popular writing about the biological and medical sciences during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. She demonstrates that gender as metaphor has had an exceptionally vigorous life in the history of natural knowledge.

“Jordanova’s book is suggestive and provocative, raising the kinds of questions that enrich our understanding of the culture of science. Equally valuable is her analysis of the metaphorical meaning of veiling and unveiling (especially surrounding the statue of Nature—personified as a young woman—unveiling before Science found in the vestibule of the Paris medical faculty), her account of a female robot in Fritz Lang’s film Metropolis, and her analysis of images of the female body in recent literature.... Her persistent questioning of the meaning of representation moves us into fertile territory for beginning to understand how knowledge of nature becomes gendered.”—Londa Schiebinger, Journal of the History of Sexuality

“Ludmilla Jordanova’s fascinating book joins a growing body of scholarship offering sophisticated analyses of the significance of gender in the history of science and medicine.... It shows how far we have progressed in our understanding of the significance of gender for the history of science and medicine. Jordanova rightly argues that we cannot just simply add gender to existing knowledge but that we must rethink that knowledge.”—Leslie J. Burlingame, Isis

Ludmilla Jordanova
is professor of history at the University of Essex. She is the editor of Languages of Nature and has coedited and contributed to many books, including Women in Society and The Enlightenment and Its Shadows.

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Unclothed woman on table being observed by a doctor

March 1993

LC: 92-041729 QP
207 pp. 6 x 9
17 plates
Paper ISBN 978-0-299-12294-2
Cloth ISBN 978-0-299-12290-4

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