Rhinoplasty and the nose in early modern British medicine and culture

This book explores seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Britain’s experiences with and responses to the surgical reconstruction of the nose, and the concerns and possibilities raised by the idea of ‘nose transplants’ in this period. Challenging histories of plastic surgery that posit a complete disappearance of Gaspare Tagliacozzi’s reconstructive operation after his death in 1599, the book traces the actual extent of this knowledge within the medical community in order to uncover why such a procedure was anathema to early modern British culture. Medical knowledge of Tagliacozzi’s autograft rhinoplasty was overtaken by a spurious story, widely related in contemporary literature, that the nose would be constructed from flesh purchased from a social inferior, and would die with the vendor. The volume therefore explores this narrative in detail for its role in the procedure’s stigmatisation, its engagement with the doctrine of medical sympathy, and its attempt to commoditise living human flesh. Utilising medical research and book histories alongside literary criticism, the project historicises key modern questions about the commodification and limits of the human body, the impact of popular culture on medical practice, and the ethical connotations of bodily modification as response to stigma.

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