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The cover of our September issue features a detail from Jacques Fabien Gautier d’Agoty’s Mylologie complette. I have had the good fortune to see many of Gautier’s works at the Dittrick Museum of Medical History, and the even better luck of teaching courses through their use. The students might read Frankenstein (a work preparing to celebrate its 200th birthday), and they might see anatomies of the body online, or listen to me speak at length about the value of early anatomists to the medical future. But it wasn’t until our hands-on class, where white-gloved students could see the highly coloured Gautier in person, that the message became clear. One of the anatomies displays the body in full, high colour, still deeply penetrating—and seven feet in length. The hushed whisper around the room: it’s a person, isn’t it? The body, only yet in two-dimensions, became real.
This is a colourful example of something we, from both sides of medical humanities, tend to take for granted. How do we see the body? A simple question on the surface but endlessly complex. What do we mean by the body? Whose body is it? Or to turn it around—who gets to see it? And do we trust their vision? In ‘‘Deal with It. Name It’:the diagnostic moment in film’, Thierry Jutel and Annemarie Jutel discuss the ‘crisis’ of diagnosis using film, a literal and figurative lens. What we call something makes it real to us. On the reverse, though related side, ‘The Ghost of Pandemics Past: Revisiting Two Centuries of Influenza in Sweden’ by Martin Holmberg (and open access in this issue) describes the way people connect with the concept of ‘pandemic’ by either contrasting it to the ‘novelty of the coming plague’ or recast it as fear of a ‘ghost-like …
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