WHAT: Dery lecture in Bethesda, Maryland, at the National Library of Medicine’s “History of Medicine Seminars” series: “The Anatomical Unconscious: X-Ray Specs, Visible Women, and the Eros of the Unseen.”

Copyright Jason Freeny; all rights reserved.

Open to the public.

WHEN: November 4, 2010 (Thurs) 2:00 – 3:30 p.m.


National Library of Medicine
8600 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, MD 20894
(301) 402-8878

Bldg 38A, NLM Visitor Center.

Directions here.


What do 18th-century wax “anatomical Venuses” doing a striptease in which they expose their internal organs; cutaway views of the imaginary anatomy of Loony Tunes characters; the X-Ray Specs and Visible Woman toys familiar to boomers; and artist Wim Delvoye’s X-rated X-rays of people performing sex acts have in common?

Mark Dery makes these and other provocative connections in his lecture “The Anatomical Unconscious: X-Ray Specs, Visible Women, and the Eros of the Unseen,” a cultural critique of the eroticizing of the scientific gaze. In his hour-long lecture/slideshow, Dery will touch on the pornographic fantasies that swirled around the X-ray from its inception; adolescent dreams, fueled by comic-book ads for X-Ray Specs, of the potential uses for Superman’s X-ray vision; current fears of the potential for abusive use of airport scanners that penetrate clothing; and the artist Wim Delvoye’s series of pornographic X-rays.

He’ll theorize the eros of anatomy revealed, with digressions into the weird cartoon subgenre of imaginary anatomies (of everything from Star Wars At-Ats to Loony Tunes characters) and the premonitions of X-rated X-rays inherent in the baroque medical mannequins on display at the Museum La Specola in Florence, Italy—wax Venuses whose uncanny seductions Dery reads as examples of the abject aesthetic he calls the Pathological Sublime.

Along the way, Dery will explore the idea of X-ray as metaphor for our socially networked Age of Oversharing, when the polarities of public and private are reversing themselves, and the Death of Shame prepares the way for End of Privacy and the Transparent Self, whose innermost thoughts (and bodily functions) must be Tweeted, Facebooked, and blogged.

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