Different View Of World Mapping Human Body English Literature Essay

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Human dissection probably began as early as 300 B.C., but only with the publication of Vesalius's De Humani Corporis Fabrica in 1543 were images of the body disseminated that could be considered "modern." Typical of earlier images is the woodcut of a male figure included by the Carthusian prior Gregor Reisch in his compendium, Margarita Philosophica, first published in 1503. Here the division of the flat figure into sections is reminiscent of early zonal maps. The later sophisticated engravings from Vesalius's book were copied widely by other anatomists as they named the parts of the body: "Eustachius mapped the ear, Fallopius the female reproductive organs . . . Michael Servetus the pulmonary transit of the blood." (Fig. 6)

The relationship between the human body and the world goes back at least as far as the Middle Ages, where the microcosm, the little body of man, was thought to replicate the macrocosm or large world around him. Early images of Zodiac Man map the planets, the signs of the Zodiac, and the humours onto the human body. Later, Leonardo da Vinci's famous drawing of an outstretched body within a circle shows man as the measure of all things. In the sixteenth century, cartographers such as Ortelius began peopling their maps with human figures from exotic lands such as Tartary. The first full-fledged and deliberate use of figures in national costume occurs on the city views made by Braun and Hogenberg in 1572. Thereafter, many mapmakers included historical and contemporary figures around or in their maps, sometimes representing different social degrees, as on maps by Blaeu and Speed, sometimes providing an entreé for us as viewers through foreground figures viewing the same city plan we are seeing, as in Wit's London, and at times animating the land itself with allegorical features so that geography is humanly embodied, as in Drayton's Poly-Olbion or Chorographical Description of all the Tracts, Rivers, Mountains, Forests and other parts of the Renowned Isle of Great Britain'. (Fig. 7)

The main features of the maps are the rivers and tributaries which are populated with nymphs and deities. Shepherds stand atop hills and towns and cities are symbolised by elaborately dressed figures with castles or spires on their heads. So, while they may not be terribly useful as maps they are certainly very attractive and entertaining. To give an example, London and other cities along the Thames are represented as ladies, each wearing a crown. London and nearby Westminster are the biggest and most important cities, and a woman stands between them, holding two church spires in her hands. (See Fig. 8)

In his article, The Body and Geography, John Gillies comments:

Traditionally, which is to say in most times and places prior to the "New Geography" of early modern Europe, the tie between the body and geography ("description of the earth") has been primordial, intimate, and manifold. According to modern phenomenology, the body is made for earthly space, as - in an immediate sense - earthly space becomes manifest through the perceiving and feeling body. Bodies not only perceive space or things-in-space through any combination of their five senses, but their very design - their "handedness," their slightly uneven bifurcatedness - orientates or situates them qualitatively within space and fits them to manipulate things-in-space. Bipedalism not only equips the body to move through space but propels it as well. (Shakespeare Studies, vol. 29, January 2001)

According to Gillies, early modern geography is characterized by what he calls "the emptying of the body from the world picture".

These differing narratives of the New Geography all concur in one thing: the relegation of the body from the new world picture. This does not mean that archaic, body-related habits of thought do not persist. But it does mean that body and map stand in a new relation to each other. Maps are still handled by bodies and thus retain their tops and bottoms and sides, but the top of the map is now "north" and no longer coincident with a sacred direction. There are no sacred directions in the post-Ortelian world map (even though a certain directional bias and meaning is unconsciously asserted). The body is no longer overtly figured in the map.

Embodying the map led to a mapping of the human body. Human dissection probably began as early as 300 B.C., but only with the publication of Vesalius's De Humani Corporis Fabrica in 1543 were images of the body disseminated that could be considered scientifically "modern." Typical of earlier images is the woodcut of a male figure included by the Carthusian prior Gregor Reisch in his little encyclopedic compendium, Margarita Philosophica, first published in 1486. Here the division of the flat figure into sections is reminiscent of early zonal maps. The later sophisticated engravings from Vesalius's book were copied widely by other anatomists as they named the parts of the body:

Eustachius mapped the ear, Fallopius the female reproductive organs . . . Michael Servetus the pulmonary transit of the blood." Historian Jonathan Sawday has recently observed that like the explorers, "these early discoverers dotted their names, like place-names on a map, over the terrain which they encountered. In their voyages, they expressed the intersection of the body and the world at every point, claiming for the body an affinity with the complex design of the universe. . . . And in the production of a new map of the body, a new figure was also to be glimpsed: the scientist as heroic voyager and intrepid discoverer. [1] 4

Well, Dromio is a presumably uneducated servant, and his references to the woman's body are very anatomical in nature, but his knowledge of Geography is more than what an ordinary petty schoolboy might have got. A closer reading of the excerpt offers valuable information on the world as viewed or imagined or understood by Shakespeare and his contemporaries. To start with, a modern Internet search engine provides the following information on the two interlocutors' place of origin - Syracuse.

When compared to the excerpt from Mercator's Atlas cited above, we find references not only to England, Scotland and Ireland, or France and Belgium just across the Channel, but also to America and the Indies - at a time when England had started its expansion to both East and West, six years after the defeat of Spain's Invincible Armada. What is notable about this dialogue is the resemblance between the map of the world and a woman's body, which offers a new direction to our research.

First of all, Dromio's sweetheart is "spherical like a globe," he "could find countries in her." The very word 'globe' is Shakespearean par excellence. Hamlet's "distracted globe" refers to the human head, repository of all wisdom, to the world, and the Globe theatre. I am not sure whether Shakespeare had any knowledge of Phineas Fletcher's poem The Purple Island, composed in 1609 (though published as late as 1633), or if Fletcher had seen or read The Comedy of Errors, but both insist on the circularity of the island human body, mirroring the circular shape of the Universe as viewed by Pythagoras. The human body is, then a representation of England, circular - thus perfect in its shape - and easily to defeat against any foreign aggressions.

This comic listing of parts of the female anatomy in association with different European countries amounts to a grotesque counter-blazon. These geographical blazons, obviously inspired by the anatomical blazons of the Renaissance sonneteers, probably anticipate the famous "country matters" of Hamlet. The misogynist replica where Prince establishes an equivalence between the sex of the woman and the flat country is indeed a bit similar. According to Michael Neill, who calls this an "unashamed erotic blazoning of the map of Ireland," [1] 5 Ireland's association with the buttocks would be a parody of the mapping of the female body. These parallels are based on associations between the humorous name given to different parts of the body and that of various countries, European or not. The source may be found in Sebastian Münster's Cosmographie (1588) a work in which Europe is represented as a solidly built woman holding a globe in her right hand and a sceptre in her left one, while Africa appears in the upper left corner, Asia at his feet, and Scandinavia right to her waist height.

Spain corresponds to the head and face, France is situated in the upper chest, Germany on the breasts, while Greece and Tartary are aligned at the location of the feet under the long robe. What makes the description in The Comedy of Errors both funny and unusual, is that Nell's body is essentially described by using European analogies, though she is supposed to reside in Ephesus, in Asia Minor. This Eurocentric geography is part of this strategy of the double space the playwright makes use of, combining proximity and distance, familiarity and strangeness. This kind of grotesque humour turns the human body into a map where the great and the small worlds intersect in a number of ways. It is the oldest and most systematic example for the use of the spatial anamorphosis technique, where body and landscape become interchangeable. (See Fig. 9)

In A Midsummer Night's Dream, we have two images Helena uses to describe her rival, the dark-complexioned Hermia: the 'brow of Egypt' (5.1.11) refers to black skin, like that of an 'Ethiope' (3.2.257), or of a 'tawny Tartar' (3.2.263). In The Merry Wives of Windsor, Falstaff refers to Mrs Page as 'a region in Guiana' (1.3.66), while the two merry wives he is simultaneously courting become his 'East and West Indies' (1.3.68). Despite the reputation of Guyana as an 'eroticized land' [1] 6 it will soon become obvious that Falstaff is less interested in satisfying his libido than in filling his purse. The two women are indeed a real Eldorado in the eyes of the impoverished knight who has always lived on the generosity of women. Titania, meanwhile, describes her pregnant girlfriend as a close confidante 'in the spiced Indian air by night', describing her then pictorially as a sail blown by the wind and as a cargo-laden vessel (A Midsummer Night's Dream, 2.1.124-34). The geography of the fairyland is marked by the nostalgia for the Golden Age, and also by a mercantile appetite where fertility is measured in economic, rhetoric and maternal terms. [1] 7

According to Professor Mauro Spicci of the State University of Milan, "in seventeenth-century Europe, the place where the anatomical fragmentation of the human body becomes systematic knowledge is the anatomy theatre: the strict organization of the space for dissection, the nearly religious nature of anatomical ceremonies, and the massive recurrence of verbal as well as visual hints to the memento mori tradition, are the elements that most contributed to transform Renaissance anatomy into what Daniel Featley, author of one of the prefatory epistles of The Purple Island, defines as autologie, a neologism clearly suggesting the idea of a poetic voyage of self-knowledge into the hidden recesses of the human body."

Scientific curiosity led to minute investigations of the human body, and an anonymous corpse was turned into the very image of God or his Temple on Earth, continues the Italian scholar:

If, in anatomy theatres, the transformation of the anatomized corpse into the image of God, or his temple on Earth is made possible by the precise layout of physical space, in Fletcher's poem the vision of the human body is rigidly determined by its exact textual boundaries. In fact Fletcher is meticulous in defining the textual dimensions within which his fantastic voyageâ€- into the body takes place: the chronological background of Fletcher's voyage is May, a month traditionally associated with the concepts of natural rebirth and spiritual regeneration; from an ideological viewpoint, it reflects the typical Renaissance theory of correspondence; its medical background is essentially Galenic; last, its stylistic paradigms are essentially Spenser and Sannazzaro for pastoral poetry, Du Bartas for the so-called divine poetry, and the Scriptures for the puritan psychomachy of the final cantos of the poem. [1] 8

The image of the island serves this purpose perfectly: the insular metaphor is aimed both at multiplying the possible allegorical pathways stemming from the Spenserian body-house association, and at translating bodily geography into natural images that evoke the suspended landscapes of pastoral poetry, the timeless scenarios of utopian literature, and the narratives of discovery. In this sense, like Shakespeare's island in The Tempest, Fletcher's "little isle" (V.2.1) is not a real and realistically defined place; rather, it is a "playground for fantasy […] not confined within the cage of literal meaning", but constitutionally open to disclose "the realm of imagination". [2] 0

However, Fletcher's island is not "an alien habitat, […] an unchartered territory"(De Sousa, 449): unlike Prospero's island, which is "fearful [and] disorienting" for its inhabitants because it has no "place names" [2] 1, Fletcher's somatic isle represents the natural playground for the linguistic capacities of its explorers; the landscape of Fletcher's island is in fact so meticulously marked by fixed linguistic signs that the observer is naturally forced to call it "home" (I.34.6). So the accuracy of Fletcher's medical terminology is not simply a benchmark for the author's scientific expertise; it also corresponds to a precise aesthetic aim: to represent the body as a wild land that shares the same language as that of its colonizers. The accuracy of the anatomical lexicon in The Purple Island is therefore an "art of naming", a strategy by which the poet triumphantly colonizes the island, defines the rules and limits of its "predictability", and lastly exorcises its wilderness, transforming it into an entity that can be linguistically determined, then recognized, and finally controlled.

Last but not least, we discern something like 'meteorological' versions of this European geography which are used by Shakespeare (and not only) to describe moods, such as rage, anger, and unbridled passion. In The Taming of the Shrew, Katharina displays the violence of the 'swelling Adriatic seas' (1.2.71) while Othello, after swearing to Iago that his decision to expel from his breast his love for Desdemona ("blow all love historical background [...] to heaven," 3.3.448) is now irreversible, he uses images borrowed from the geography of Turkey, a liminal space located at the edge of Europe and Asia:

This passage metaphorically describes the passage from the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara, through the Dardanelles Strait, as described by Pliny the Elder's Historie of the World which Shakespeare might have read via Philemon Holland's 1601 translation. Othello indirectly associates himself with the proverbial cruelty of the Turks when, on the point of committing suicide, he tells the story of the 'malignant and turban'd Turk' to whom he should have slit his throat in Aleppo, Syria, on the grounds that he was attacking a Venetian and had dared speak ill of the Republic (5.2.350-54). By committing suicide - an action both mimetic and performative - Othello actually desires to eliminate the Turk in himself.