The performativity of a historical brain event: Revisiting 1517 Strassburg
CitationBell, J. K. (2012). The performativity of a historical brain event: Revisiting 1517 Strassburg. In Littlefield, M. M., Johnson, J.M. (Eds.). The Neuroscientific Turn: Transdisciplinarity in the Age of the Brain (pp. 49-70). Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Since the early nineteenth century, the military surgeon Hans von Gersdorff's (ca. 1455-1529) Feldtbuch der Wundartzney (1517) and medical doctor Lorenz Fries's (ca. 1490-1530) Spiegel der Artzney (1518) have been used as a keying mechanism to help delimit the boundaries of the modern brain. Gersdorff's book includes fugitive sheets (fliegende Blätter), one of which represents an anatomized body and brain in a single sheet broadside; copies of this fugitive sheet were subsequently reprinted the next year in Fries's text. In the history of the brain, these images mark the beginning of all subsequent, similarly represented cerebral cortices.2 Hans von Gersdorff and Lorenz Fries were also two of the first to use the combined languages of dissection and typography in defining the style by which doctors and surgeons approached the brain. Contemporary historians of the brain may notice that limited translations of textual fragments from the vernacular German to English, as well as the presence of some of the first visually accurate images of the head and brain, have led both German- and Englishspeaking scholars to emphasize the images of a dissected head as metonyms for the entirety of Fries's and Gersdorff's knowledge of the brain.