University of Exeter event: ‘Disfigured Faces: Modern and Early Modern’

Two members of the Effaced team will be presenting this Wednesday, 6 December, as part of the University of Exeter’s Centre for Medical History seminar series.

Disfigured Faces: Modern and Early Modern, presented by Dr Suzannah Biernoff (Birkbeck) and Dr Michelle Webb (Exeter). 1- 3pm, Digital Humanities Seminar Room 2. 

The abstracts are included below, and the poster is available here.

Dr Suzannah Biernoff (Birkbeck), ‘Facelessness in Georges Franju’s Les yeux sans visage‘.

The first facial transplant, using a donor’s nose, chin and mouth, was performed on Isabelle Dinoire in France in 2005, but the idea of removing or replacing the face – either with a mask, or a living face – has been around for much longer. This paper begins to map the cultural ‘pre-history’ of the face transplant, focusing on the idea and image of facelessness in Georges Franju’s classic horror film Les yeux sans visage (1959). Franju’s film sits uneasily within the academic history of plastic surgery, but as a cultural text it reveals a great deal about popular perceptions of disfigurement and experimental surgery – and the intimate relationship between disgust, horror and visual pleasure.

Suzannah Biernoff is Senior Lecturer in Visual Culture in the Department of History of Art at Birkbeck, University of London and co-director of Birkbeck’s Medical Humanities Research Group. Her research has spanned medieval and modern periods: she is the author of Sight and Embodiment in the Middle Ages (Palgrave, 2002), while her recent publications pursue the themes of corporeal history and visual anxiety in the context of First World War Britain. In 2007 she was awarded a Wellcome Trust Research Leave Award for a project on the cultural history of disfigurement. Open access articles from this project have been published in the journals Visual Culture in Britain, Social History of Medicine and Photographies, and an essay on Nina Berman’s Marine Wedding appeared in the edited volume Ugliness: The Non-beautiful in Art and Theory. Her latest book, Portraits of Violence: War and the Aesthetics of Disfigurement, was published by the University of Michigan Press earlier this year in their Corporealities: Discourses of Disability series.


Dr Michelle Webb, ‘A Noseless Man named Thomas Ford’: Facial Disfigurement in Early Modern England’.

In October 1639 Richard Boyle, First Earl of Cork, recorded in his diary the details of the latest improvements to his house in Dorset: ‘I gaue 40li in part of 50li to haue a bowling green made me at Stalbridge, by a noseles man, named Thomas ford’. In his diary for that year, Boyle detailed his interactions with several hundred individuals, including men, women, close family members, near strangers, the King, the Queen, and a ‘poor ragged boye’ who was to be taken on as an apprentice cook.  Of this great multitude, he mentioned the physical appearance of only one person – Thomas Ford.

This paper will explore the experience of, and reactions to, facial difference in early modern England. What was it like to be, to encounter, or to treat ‘a noseles man’ like Thomas Ford? Would a noseless woman have been written about in the same way? And were there non-visual implications of a missing nose that contributed to the stigmatization of individuals such as Thomas Ford? This paper will argue that issues relating to gender and to the emotions are central to the study of facial disfigurement.

Michelle Webb has recently completed an AHRC funded PhD in Medical History at the University of Exeter, researching facial disfigurement in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England. She is currently teaching at Exeter and planning a new project on early modern medicine and the emotions.

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Free Event! ‘Making Faces: Beauty Lost and Found’

As part of the Being Human Festival of the Humanities, the Effaced team is hosting a public event at Swansea University on 22 November 2017. Making Faces: Beauty Lost and Found will introduce members of the public to the fascinating world of the face– from medieval beauty regimes to the disfiguring effects of work, historic dentistry, and the changing attitudes towards spectacles. We’ll also see the results of our Make a Face competition.

Changing Faces will also be involved, inviting people to take their implicit bias test, and showing some of the portraits from their wonderful Portrait Positive project.

To book for this Free Event, visit the event website.


Posted in Changing Faces, Classical, Contemporary, Early Modern, events, Media, medieval, Modern, News, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

CFP: Medical and Metaphorical Wounds from the Middle Ages to the First World War

A two-day workshop at the Science Museum, London, that may be of interest to our followers: January 26 and 27, 2018.

Wounds and their meaning have differed over time: from stigmata to the psychological wounding of soldiers in the First World War, the conception and function of wounds as religious symbols, medical signs or metaphorical devices has depended on social and historical contexts. Over this two-day workshop we hope to further a discussion on the varied understandings of wounds and wounding across history by bringing museum professionals and academics from different periods and disciplines together.

This workshop will mark the closing of the Wounded: Conflict, Casualties and Care at the Science Museum, on wound care and surgical developments in the First World War. The format will be a series of panels, discussions and (guided) exclusive access to the Science Museums extensive medical collections not currently on display. There will be a guided tour of the Wounded exhibition as well as a guided tour of Blythe House, one of the Science Museum object stores where large parts of the Wellcome Medical History Collection permanent loan to the Science Museum is housed. The proceedings from this workshop are to be published in a Special Issue of the Science Museum Group Journal.

Registration is free and lunch will be provided on both days. We will endeavor to cover
travel costs for student and unwaged delegates. There will be a conference dinner at delegates’ own expense.

We welcome abstracts on topics related to wounds and wounding from any period from the Middle Ages to the First World War.

Topics may include but are not limited to:

• Developments in wound care (surgical innovation during war, academic, scholastic, or
educational changes)
• Conception of wounds and wounding in medical text and literature
• Descriptions and representations of wounds in medical text and literature
• Physical and mental wounds
• Representations of wounds and wounding in images and literature
• Wounds as metaphor or simile
• Wounds in religious practice, theory and representation
• Wounds to the body politic and social wounds
• The use of wounds and wounding in political or ideological discourse

Deadline for submission of abstracts is 31st of October, 2017.

Please submit a short abstract (max 300 words) and a short biography (max 150 words) to

Any questions and queries, please do not hesitate to contact:

Posted in Body, Contemporary, events, medieval, Modern, Representation, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment