Linda Bisello

The «Civilization of Anatomy». The Reception of Anatomical Knowledge in Italian Literature in the Early Modern Age

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This essay aims to investigate the relationship between medical knowledge and humanist culture in the early modern age, with special reference to the epistemological effects of Vesalius’s work on the literary imagination. To this end, the survey defines as its field of enquiry a set of Italian literary anatomies. Although not yet studied in Italy as a historicised category, this corpus proves to be representative of an editorial phenomenon and a revealing chapter in the cultural history of this era, marked by the emergence of a «civilization of anatomy». A historiographic revision of the significance of this genre’s spread is also considered, in order to show that the pivotal science of anatomy was assimilated not only because of an aesthetic trend (the baroque vanitas), but also as a distinct and recognizable cognitive style of the era.


  • Italian literary anatomies
  • Early modern culture
  • Medical knowledge
  • Humanist academies
  • Inner self cognition


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