Event Spotlight

Visit our new location for an event spotlight featuring Dr. Don Johanson, Lucy’s 40th anniversary, and a night with the Natural History Museum of LA.

New at PH this February

This month, Dr. Allen Shotwell shares work on early modern medical manuscripts, and the connections among female and canine anatomies. Come check it out.

Want to join the conversation? Visit Dr. Shotwell or our editor on Twitter.

Updates at the New Performing Humanity

Screen Shot 2012-06-07 at 6.42.09 PMHaven’t had a chance to swing by Performing Humanity’s new location? Here’s a peek into what we’ve been up to:

History Carnival 141: A New Year in History (January 2015)

Staging Animal Bodies (December 2014)

Animal Studies, Blockbuster Edition II: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (November 2014)

Animal Studies, Blockbuster Edition I: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (October 2014)

New Location

With the completion of the Emerging Voices series, Performing Humanity has shifted to a new location for the release of new content.

We hope that you’ll continue joining us there, sharing your ideas, and proposing new content. In the coming months we have exciting articles and collaborations scheduled; and we hope to develop new ways for you to engage with contributors.

Thanks for visiting!

The Future of Performing Humanity

The Future of Performing Humanity.

Shaping Science: Divergent Sciences between Tyson and Hooke

Screen Shot 2014-05-04 at 11.44.13 AMBy Colin N.

The latter days of the Early Modern period were among the more notable in terms of scientific discovery, and the investigations of scientists such as Edward Tyson and Robert Hooke were among the most profound and influential. However, each scientist had unexpected positive and negative impacts upon several key concepts concerning the identities of animals and humans. As is well documented by Erica Fudge inBrutal Reasoning, the England these two great scientists were born into was rife with conflicting beliefs on the identity of what is human and what is animal. Up until late in the Early Modern period, these conflicts were managed by philosophers and the church, and the mysticism and mystery behind the categorical identities of ‘human’ and ‘animal’ caused social and moral struggles. As the era progressed, more and more weight shifted to scientific analysis and reasoning, and that fact paved the way for Tyson and Hooke so that both scientists could present their own perspectives on the matter.
Of the two scientists, Tyson was most rooted in the traditional foundations of thinking. His examination and anatomical drawings on Pygmies, specifically his ‘Orang-Outang’ which we would call a chimpanzee, revealed a remarkably unscientific set of beliefs in Tyson. At the Borders of the Human points out that Tyson believed that the chimpanzee he studied was capable of transforming. That belief, along with Tyson’s intention to use the dissection in affirming and “maintaining the God-given gap between apes and men” (Fudge 219) pushes Tyson further down the road of the mystic rather than the scientist. Keep in note, however, that Tyson also was oft to maintaining a larger separation of folklore and science than many of his peers, which is one reason he is remembered today as a pioneer in comparative anatomy.
Robert Hooke, on the other hand, is remembered for quite a large list of things ranging from his work in physics, to the work we care about in this context –  his work in studying animals, microorganisms, and fossils. Among the first men to usher in the Age of Reason, Robert Hooke’s impact on his age is beyond just his scientific discoveries, which involved being one of the first to discover and document microorganisms using a microscope, using the microscope to document and draw depictions of animals previously unnoticed such as the fly and louse, and depicting fossils through similar uses of art. In his letters, recollected by Robert Gunther, Hooke shows his inquisitive nature and use of logical and scientific processes which lead him to experiments on dogs using blood and other liquids, as well as his experiments on microorganisms.

These experiments and discoveries highlight a fundamental difference between Hooke and more traditional scientists like Tyson, and the difference is Hooke’s purely scientific view on the subject. Through Hooke, one can imagine the impact on the culture that his discoveries had. Given the concept that one becomes like what they ingest or ‘take in’, it must have been shocking for people to realize that they ingest several billion unseen creatures every day. All the while, both scientists were able to open up the scientific world to the general public through their drawings. Still, in their wake, Tyson and Hooke did not solve the problems of the definition of ‘human’ and ‘animal’ and, in fact, caused it to change into an entirely new form just like the mythical beasts they debunked.

Colin is a student at Ball State University studying Creative Writing. He enjoys writing poetry and prose, but is most familiar with longer narratives.  He enjoys a good story and uses his aloof nature to find creativity in odd places.


Image: Hooke, Robert. Schematic XXXV. 1665. http://rylandscollections.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/louse.jpg PNG file
Fudge, Erica. Brutal Reasoning: Animals, Rationality, and Humanity in Early Modern England. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. 2006. Print.
Fudge, Erica and Ruth Gilbert and Susan Wiseman. At the Borders of the Human: Beasts, Bodies and Natural Philosophy in the Early Modern Period. New York: Palgrave Publishers. 2002. Print.
Gunther, Robert. Early Science in Oxford. Vol. 8. 1923. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1968. Print.

The Tower of Royal Animals

By Tiffany M.

The Tower of London had many uses over the years, up to and through the Pre Modern period. Notably it was the site of many beheadings and imprisonments. Queen Elizabeth I herself was even imprisoned there for a time. Notably, the Tower also housed The Royal Menagerie, where exotic animals were displayed for visitors to view. Though these facts are interesting in their own right, I am particularly interested in the diverse functionality of the Tower and what implications emerge given London’s eclectic use of the architecture. In particular, how did the Tower’s residents raise questions about spectacles and objectifications involving man and beast?


There was a fascination during the Pre Modern period surrounding the question “What exactly differentiates man and beast?” Vast amounts of experiments were occurring, including vivisections, dissections, and blood transfusions; in all cases, these experiments involved both animals and humans. Much as in the anatomical theaters, both man and beast existed in the Tower. Unlike the anatomical theaters, however, it could be argued the animals received better treatment in the Tower. According to an article by Phillip Drennon Thomas, “During the fourteenth century, lions and other animals were allotted six pence a day in food while their keeper was given one-and-a-half pence for his board”(Thomas). Also in an article by Julia Stuart, “Stow’s Survey Of London, published in 1720, remarked that: ‘The creatures have a rank smell, which hath so affected the air of the place… that it hath much injured the health of the man that attends them, so stuffed up his head, that it affects his speech.’”(Stuart). In a time when animals were considered possessions, for human consumption, and being killed and mutilated for human entertainment this was highly unusual.


The humans that resided in the tower were either held as prisoners or as keepers of the Royal Animals. The animals were often gifts from Royalty and considered a form of entertainment, art, and prized possessions, particularly the lions. According to Thomas, James I was so fond of the lions, that he designed a bottle with a nipple to feed orphan lion cubs. The feeding bottle was not even introduced for human children until the 19th century. This posses the question: Are some animals more valuable than humans? At least here, the animals were being humanized and the humans animalized. This is even more fascinating when you consider that only Royalty or people once of high regard were imprisoned there or were invited to the menagerie.Screen Shot 2014-05-04 at 11.38.22 AM


Placing Royal criminals in the same space with wild animals complicates ideas of human value in England at the time. In her book “Perceiving Animals,” Erica Fudge notes that in England, animals were often put on trial for crimes they allegedly committed. They were dressed in human clothes, put in human prisons, and assigned a lawyer. According to Stewart, in the Royal menagerie we see a reversal here. Instead of animals staying in human prisons, animal cages were turned into prison cells for humans. Was there a hierarchy between types of beasts as there was with men? Did this hierarchy overlap between different types of men and beasts? Fudge notes, “ In early modern English law there were three categories of animal, wild animals, domestic animals, and recreational animals, and different categories of ownership for animals, absolute and qualified possessory. Only domestic animals can be absolutely owned. Wild animals may qualify to be possessed however it must be made tame and maintained as tame”(Fudge). Where do the animals held at the menagerie fit into this? They certainly weren’t tame. There are documentations of them killing or mauling patrons and I have found no killing or trial records for any of these animals. Were they exempt from such rules, perhaps above the law?


Tiffany is a student at Ball State University with majors in the Art and English departments.



Public Domain, Wire animals at tower.jpg.


Burgess, Laura. “A Menagerie of strange Royal Beasts returns for Tower of London installation and exhibition.” Culture 24. (2011): n. page. Web. 30 Apr. 2014.



Fudge, Erica. Perceiving Animals. 1st ed. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2002. 115-142. Print.


Stuart, Julia. “Balthazar Jones And The Tower Of London Zoo.” HarperPress. (2010): n. page. Web. 30 Apr. 2014. <Balthazar Jones And The Tower Of London Zoo Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1313816/The-polar-bear-lived-Tower–grumpy-lion-baboon-threw-cannon-balls-Britains-bizarre-zoo.html


Thomas, Phillip Drennon. “The Tower of London’s Royal Menagerie.” History Today. 46.8 (1996): 29. Print.



Understanding the Body: The Necessity of Animal Vivisection in Pre- Modern English Medical Research

By Walter E.

Knowledge of the human body was at an interesting crossroad in Pre- Modern England. After the fall of Rome, little was done towards advancing medical understanding, leaving the English with only Greek traditions of medicine (Kiple 25). It would not be until William Harvey’s discoveries in the late 16th century that a new resurgence of medical research and experimentation would occur. Vivisection on live animals was, at the time, a viable way to test theories of anatomy and determine how certain parts of the body functioned. Animals were seen as tools, and, rather than “wasting” a human life, animals provided a means for decreased distress in cases of failure.To our eyes, pictures and accounts of these experiments come off as cruel torture; however, they would in the end prove crucial to modern understanding of the human body.
Harvey’s discovery of blood circulation, one of the greatest medical discoveries, was based on animal experimentation (Kiple 25). These experimentations would prove crucial to understanding how large amounts of blood moved through the body. Obviously, the same experiment would not yield the same results on a corpse. Even with the death of an animal, the relationship between living and dying would be able to be better understood. Since live animal experimentation involved specific skills and the presence of an audience to confirm any found results, the affirmation of any experiment proved to be crucial since results on animals would vary widely (Guerrini 395).  This visual conformation would allow other scientists of the time to look at Harvey’s findings and try to determine their own.
 Screen Shot 2014-05-04 at 11.28.49 AM
Robert Boyle and Robert Hooke started with similar experiments. Starting with larks, they would pump the air out of the bird until it died. Eventually they would move on to other animals (Guerrini 395). Hooke’s attempt at this process on a dog is well documented. Hooke wrote down accounts of the experiment. Hooke was able to display the dog’s thorax by cutting away the ribs and diaphragm (Hooke 539). The dog was able to last an hour with Hooke pumping air into the lungs with a pair of bellows. Hooke noted that, “upon ceasing this blaft, and fluffering the lungs to fall and lye still, the dog would immediately fall into dying convulsive fits” (Hooke 540). While the correlation between air and lungs seems obvious now, this was a major discovery in human medicine.   
Boyle noted that the animals felt distressed. However, he did not linger on the treatment of his experiment animals (Guerrini 397). This disassociation with how the animals felt was one of the many instances where the separation between humans and animals was clear. It is interesting that the purpose for these experiments was to discover how the human body worked, and even if the animals functioned similarly to humans, the separation was still present. What determines the value of human to animal life? If animals functioned in similar ways to humans, then why must there be this constant separation. It could be argued that since these experiments were on animals, then relating them to humans shouldn’t be allowed. However that is not the case. These discoveries found in animals led to the modern understanding of the human body. Even with the lack of attention to the well being of animals and an almost barbaric bout of vivisections, science would not have been able to advance without the presence of these tests. While the argument of what constitutes “human” continued to be challenged throughout the 16th century and beyond, the idea that bodily organs functioned in a universal sense could not. 
Walter is a junior at Ball State University. He studies English with a concentration in creative writing. 
Image: Mouchy, Emile- Edouard. Physiological Demonstration with Vivisection of a Dog. 1832. Wellcome Library, London. The Chirurgeon’s Apprentice. Web. 17 Apr. 2014.
Guerrini, Anita. “The Ethics of Animal Experimentation in Seventeenth Century England.” Journal of the History of Ideas 50.3 (1989): 391- 407. JSTOR. Web. 27 March 2014
Hooke, Robert. “An Account of an Experiment Made by Mr. Hook, of Preserving Animals Alive by Blowing through Their Lungs with Bellows.” Philosophical Transactions (1665- 1678) 2.1 (1666): 539-540.JSTOR. Web. 27 March 2014. 
Kiple, Kenneth F, and Kriemhild Conee Ornelas. “Experimental Animals in Medical  Research: A History.”Why Animal Experimentation Matters: The Use of Animals in Medical Research. Ed. Ellen Frankel Paul and Jeffery Paul. London: Transaction, 2001. 23-48. Print. 

The Body & the Pen: Finding Synthesis between Art & Medicine

By Walter E., Tiffany M., Colin N., and Paige Z.
During the early modern period in England, science and art came together to compare the bodies of animals and humans. Discoveries from vivisections and dissections, which later shaped scientific drawings and textual descriptions, revealed that human and animal anatomies were more similar than previously believed. These early artistic displays of scientific examinations were important to the present and future, as those recordings set up a foundation on which later scientists could refer when documenting accurate representations of their work. Scientists of the time, including Edward Tyson, a founder of comparative anatomy, set the stage for further scientific and artistic blending for later scientists.

Until this point, medical practice was rooted in the Humoral Theory, a model utilized by Galen. The belief was that the human body was comprised of four parts (or humors): Blood, Phlegm, and Black and Yellow bile. Humors allowed medical surgeons like William Harvey and Edward Tyson to explain how the lungs and circulatory system operated, among other bodily functions. Yet continued use of vivisection and dissection began raising questions about the accuracy of previous theories; and scientists began to pinpoint the similarities and differences among human and animal biology, human and animal anatomy, and the degree to which humans could use body fluids and humors differentiate themselves and claim natural superiority. Though, while these methods of research seem antiquated in the 21st century, they were essential to the advancement of modern medicine and social advancements due to the aforementioned answers unveiled by these examinations. While science and art are often thought to be on opposite ends of the spectrum, with science as absolute thoughts and art showing free-thinking creativity, we have found a means of synthesizing of the two. In our research we have concluded that art and science cannot be treated as separate entities but instead that one lends to the other in that each helped progress the other to become more accurate in both rendering and execution.

The Future of Performing Humanity

Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 3.52.54 PMWe’re excited to introduce readers, faithful and newly added, to the testing site of the updated Performing Humanity.

In the coming months, we will be assessing  the new site as an alternative to this platform.  We’ll be sharing reviews on summer films in the field, as well as articles on museums and art exhibits. As new content rolls in, we invite you to share feedback and suggestions so we can shape a site that showcases your work, and fits your needs and interests.

By the new year, we’ll have finalized the decisions and will be hosting collaborations with scholars, authors, and artists (including History Carnival in January 2015). We hope that you’ll join us by continuing to share your own ideas and contributions.

Have favorite articles from PH? Never fear! Our old site and its archives will remain available to you. We will also continue hosting our “Emerging Voices” series, which is also viewable through the RSS feed at the bottom of the new site, until it concludes in early November. You don’t need to miss a thing.

Thank you for reading!


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