Rebecca M. Rosen, Princeton University
MCEAS Consortium Fellow
“Making the Body Speak: Anatomy, Autopsy and Testimony in Early America, 1639-1790”
Rebecca's dissertation, “Making the Body Speak: Anatomy, Autopsy and Testimony in Early America, 1639-1790,” interrogates how the postmortem exam—whether the inspection of the surface of the body or a literal anatomy or dissection—was deployed in different parts of colonial America in order to elicit testimony from the bodies of the deceased. This project proposes that the postmortem exam or autopsy has analytical value for scholars of the body, literature, medicine and law in early America as a procedure imbued with specific rhetorical and semiotic weight. “Making the Body Speak” directs the focus of analysis from the body’s exterior to the interior, and argues that anatomical practices and methods of reading provide insight into the way early Americans viewed, read and heard bodies in ways that are inaccessible through the use of surface signs alone.