The Doctor Dissected: A Cultural Autopsy of the Burke and Hare Murders

Hardcover | January 3, 2012

byCaroline Mccracken-flesher

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In 1828, Robert Knox was Edinburgh's charismatic anatomist - but eager medical students needed corpses to practice on, and Knox was supplied by the murderers Burke and Hare. The Doctor Dissected shows how this local crime became a trauma that echoes down the years as fact and fiction and intomodern media - particularly in Scotland. Because Knox refused to speak, and national author Walter Scott would not speak for him, Scottish newspapers filled the silence with speculation. Worse, for a society that worried about the medical uncertainty of death, and whether the dead might arise, Knox's subjects loomed larger the longer theirstory remained untold. Victorian attempts to end the story only gave it new energy: evangelical writers could not account for the doctor; Robert Louis Stevenson turned him into Jekyll and Hyde. Melodramas tried to demonize Knox, but by the 1930s his scandal had extended to implicate a complicitpublic in James Bridie's plays. The 1970s could then read villains as victims of society - until Alasdair Gray gave contentious voice to actual victims in Poor Things. Today, Burke and Hare seem harmless, populating detective stories for children; they drive a national economy through Edinburgh Festival frolics - not least those of Gunther von Hagens. With Knox they feature internationally in movies, manga, and video games. Yet canny Scots like Ian Rankin know thevalue of a dark past as a warning against complacency for twenty-first-century Scotland - they show the use of a negative tale to chasten any too optimistically imagined community.

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In 1828, Robert Knox was Edinburgh's charismatic anatomist - but eager medical students needed corpses to practice on, and Knox was supplied by the murderers Burke and Hare. The Doctor Dissected shows how this local crime became a trauma that echoes down the years as fact and fiction and intomodern media - particularly in Scotland. Bec...

Caroline McCracken-Flesher is Professor of English at the University of Wyoming. She is the author of Possible Scotlands: Walter Scott and the Story of Tomorrow and the editor of Culture, Nation, and the New Scottish Parliament..

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:304 pages, 9.25 × 6.12 × 0.98 inPublished:January 3, 2012Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199766827

ISBN - 13:9780199766826

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Table of Contents

Abbreviations1. Medicine, Murder, and Scottish Story: Doctor Knox and Burke and Hare2. The Story Begins: The Law versus the Press, and the Doctor versus Walter Scott3. Enlightened System versus Religious Sympathy: The Sensational Tales of Alexander Leigton and David Pae4. Dissecting the Doctor: Mr. Jekyll, Dr. Hyde, and Robert Knox5. Anatomizing the Audience: James Bridie, Melodrama, and the Movies6. Bringing out the Dead: Silent Victims Speak in Alasdair Gray's Poor Things7. Resting in Pieces? Present Comforts or Restless Futures in Ian Rankin's ScotlandNotesBibliographyIndex