Dear flesh
Noses on sale
in Rhinoplasty and the nose in early modern British medicine and culture
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Chapter five engages with the commodification of living human flesh proposed within stories of sympathetic allograft rhinoplasty. In early accounts the flesh was sourced from a slave who gained manumission; as the story was domesticated for British economic conditions and concerns, this became a cash-in-hand servant. The chapter employs economic critiques of the alienability of gifts and commodities to read the attempted commoditisation of the transplanted flesh and other bodily products and argue that the accounts emphasised the failure of the graft in order to secure the inalienability of the living human body. The only British exception to the purchased graft story is a poem by Lady Hester Pulter in which she offers her own flesh to Sir William Davenant. As a first-person account of a noble, female, gifting individual, Pulter’s poem represents a striking deviation from other extant narratives, and the chapter offers a close analysis of her use of the conceit. Building on the evidence for book ownership in earlier chapters, Pulter’s (mis)understanding of Tagliacozzi’s procedure attests to the forms of restricted medical knowledge afforded to women who were otherwise able to engage with wider healthcare regimes, medications, and operations.

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