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    The rhetoric of disfigurement in First World War Britain

    Biernoff, Suzannah (2011) The rhetoric of disfigurement in First World War Britain. Social History of Medicine 24 (3), pp. 666-685. ISSN 0951-631X.

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    During the First World War, the horror of facial mutilation was evoked in journalism, poems, memoirs and fiction; but in Britain it was almost never represented visually outside the professional contexts of clinical medicine and medical history. This article asks why, and offers an account of British visual culture in which visual anxiety and aversion are of central importance. By comparing the rhetoric of disfigurement to the parallel treatment of amputees, an asymmetrical picture emerges in which the ‘worst loss of all’—the loss of one’s face—is perceived as a loss of humanity. The only hope was surgical or, if that failed, prosthetic repair: innovations that were often wildly exaggerated in the popular press. Francis Derwent Wood was one of several sculptors whose technical skill and artistic ‘wizardry’ played a part in the improvised reconstruction of identity and humanity.


    Item Type: Article
    Additional Information: The research for this article was supported by a Wellcome Trust Research Leave Award [no. 082864]
    Keyword(s) / Subject(s): disfigurement, plastic surgery, prosthetics, visual culture, First World War
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Historical Studies
    Research Centres and Institutes: Gender and Sexuality, Birkbeck (BiGS), Social Research, Birkbeck Institute for (BISR)
    Depositing User: Suzannah Biernoff
    Date Deposited: 15 Nov 2012 17:52
    Last Modified: 02 Aug 2023 17:00


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