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Book and Media Reviews
January 23, 2008

Murder After Death: Literature and Anatomy in Early Modern England

JAMA. 2008;299(3):346-352. doi:10.1001/jama.299.3.351

It is not uncommon for an idea, an article, or even a book to be inspired by a single word or image. It may well be that Richard Sugg's Murder After Death: Literature and Anatomy in Early Modern England is a product of the sudden prevalence of the word “anatomy” in the writing and language of early modern England: indeed, the author provides an appendix that lists more than 120 titles using the word before 1650. After stating that dissection and anatomy were part of the “desire to claim knowledge by fully, precisely, unsparingly piercing and labeling all its depths and intricacies,” Sugg then endeavors in the remainder of the book to show that anatomy in general and vesalian dissection in particular were significant for their “power to demystify” and to challenge a host of orthodoxies. Indeed, he manages to trace this new power through a wide variety of texts and genres from the early modern period.

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