Profound Absences: Genital Lack and Masculine Anxiety in Paul Richer’s “Des Différents Modes De Station Chez l’Homme Sain”

By Elizabeth Maynard.

Published by The International Journal of the Book

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

During the “crisis of masculinity” in late nineteenth-century France, both artistic and medical images of anatomy were marshaled in service of social health. This paper examines the images in the seventh volume of the “Nouvelle iconographie” of the Salpêtrière hospital with a particular focus on a chapter by Paul Richer that deals solely with the healthy male body: “Des Différents Modes de Station Chez l’Homme Sain.” The chapter serves as a case study that illustrates contemporary anxieties about masculinity entrenched in the imaging of the male body. While the Nouvelle iconographie was almost always dedicated entirely to the pathologized body, this unusual chapter serves as the ground by which the sick bodies in the rest of the volume might be judged. However, Richer’s classically ideal figures are curiously incomplete. The patients of the hospital depicted in the rest of the volume are in varying states of undress, genitals always visible, but none of the illustrations in Richer’s chapter, including two meticulously detailed engravings, include penises. This analysis considers both classical and popular precedents for the illustrations, as well the way they articulate the intersections of the disciplines of art and medicine, in order to argue that contemporary anxieties regarding masculinity, class, and sexuality account for this intriguing depiction of “l’homme sain.”

Keywords: Nouvelle Iconographie, Paul Richer, Anatomy, Art, Medicine, Masculinity, Health, Nineteenth-century France

International Journal of the Book, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp.27-38. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 763.483KB).

Elizabeth Maynard

PhD Student, Department of Art History and Communication Studies, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Elizabeth Maynard is a doctoral candidate in the department of Art History and Communications Studies at McGill University. She completed her BA in art history and English at Tufts University and her MA in humanities at the University of Chicago. In between her MA and PhD, she taught art history and first-year humanities at Valparaiso University. Her research interests center around the construction of historical narratives, particularly those built around traumatic events, and queer readings of masculinity in the postwar United States.


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