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Medicine in television period drama

This collection examines the representation of medicine and medical practices in period drama on television. It explores the fascination that the genre has with the history of illness and the medical profession, which is apparent in the huge number of shows which have medicine as either their narrative focus or as important subplots. Chapter topics are interdisciplinary in nature and range from the professionalisation of medicine in Poldark to the representation of mental illness in Peaky Blinders. This volume reflects on the ways popular culture has constructed and considered the frailty of the human body, the progress – or otherwise – of science, the intersection of medicine, race, class, and gender, and the provision of public healthcare. These dramas do not only reveal much about how we view our corporeal past, however. All these issues are still pertinent today, and frequently they also function as a commentary on, and often a critique of, the issues surrounding medicine in the present day – in particular debates around public health provision, the politics of reproduction, genetic testing and research, and global pandemics.

Early twentieth century surgery on screen
Allitt Marie

In an early episode of The Knick (2014–2015), Dr Algernon Edwards (André Holland), who has been forced to perform surgery in secret in the hospital basement after hours, records details of the process with photographs. Later, we see him, and eventually his colleagues, consult these images through a stereoscope. Edwards makes these photographs partly for patient case notes, and partly to track

in Diagnosing history
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Felicity Chaplin

ageing and did not rule out cosmetic surgery as a solution to the problem of fewer and fewer film roles (Cole; So). However, more recently she has had a change of heart, citing the fact that the older actresses she admires have not had surgery (Verley and Defouilloy 153). In 2017 Gainsbourg addressed the way magazine images of female stars, including herself, are airbrushed and retouched to hide visible signs of ageing: ‘It’s like, ‘Give me back my age! I do have wrinkles! I don’t look like a 20-year-old’ (qtd. in Feinstein). However, Gainsbourg does admit that youth

in Charlotte Gainsbourg
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Doing what you want to do
Brian McFarlane
Deane Williams

to do it? I want to do what I want to do rather than what’s good for my career. 10 Notes 1 Andrew Eaton, interview (May 2006). 2 Pamela McClintock, ‘Paramount Tries “Heart” Surgery’, Variety (21 May 2007), www

in Michael Winterbottom
Fear on Four
Richard J. Hand

treat Mr Houseman, who arrives with toothache just as the surgery is about to close. The dentist recognises Houseman as the man who seduced and assaulted his wife, so he ties him into the chair and takes a drill in order to ‘drill a little hole to let out some of “lover boy”...’ The ‘humour’ lies in the sense of ‘sweet revenge’: the wronged husband strapping the

in Listen in terror
Franju’s cinematic aesthetics
Kate Ince

unacceptable to the world. Eugen Shuftan’s photography of Franju’s imagery of faces, masks and facelessness haunts more powerfully than any drama of looks, perhaps simply because of the subliminal hold that facial form has on spectatorial perception. The film’s central scene of surgery – the operation on Edna Grüberg – is its most graphic illustration of the paradoxical significance of the face: the spectator is taken right through it in a

in Georges Franju
Science, faith, the law, and the contested body and mind in The Frankenstein Chronicles and The Alienist
Wright Andrea

rights of the poor. He purports to find surgery, and more specifically, dissecting the dead, distasteful, and dismisses experimental techniques such as galvanism as fraudulent. His determination to disrupt the passing of the Bill, although veiled by outwardly benevolent intentions, is a self-serving attempt to secure his continued access to ‘patients’ for his research. But, despite Hervey being disassociated from respectable medicine

in Diagnosing history
African American physicians in television period dramas
Kevin McQueeney

medical prowess, explaining to Thackery a new medical procedure he has pioneered with equipment he created. Like Jedediah Foster in Mercy Street , this incident not only leads to an acceptance of Edwards – including allowing him to participate in surgeries – but a seeming overcoming of his racism. By the second season of The Knick , Thackery and Edwards have become allies, working together on a new experimental treatment

in Diagnosing history
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La piel que habito
Ana María Sánchez-Arce

The title and photography of La piel que habito (The Skin I Live In, 2011 ) draws attention to appearance, surface, and form, something that reviewers highlighted (not always positively) on its release. Jenny McCartney calls Almodóvar the ‘master of gleaming surfaces’, explaining how she became tired ‘of the dreary pornography of the surgery, the artily prurient close-ups of snipping and stitching’ ( 2011 ). Peter Bradshaw, on the other hand, while acknowledging that the film is ‘a tissue of surfaces, styles and images’ embraces ‘the extraordinary texture of

in The cinema of Pedro Almodóvar
Televised historical portrayals of women’s shifting roles in medicine
Fogel Jennifer M.
Sutherland Serenity

ruthlessly covet surgeries like the interns of Grey’s Anatomy (2005–) or deal with administrative blowback for performing a costly experimental surgery like on New Amsterdam (2018–), but viewers witness the constant barrage of disbelief and derision Claire earns from many of the men (and women) as she struggles throughout the centuries to assert her medical expertise. For example, season four finds Claire and Jamie installed in

in Diagnosing history