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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Penetrating Death


Attendees of the panel “Penetrating Death” were treated to four wellinformed papers investigating the manner in which female bodies have been probed and evaluated by patriarchal “experts” throughout history; while tied thematically, the papers ranged widely in historical specificity, from predynastic Egypt to late Victorian England. The first speaker, Christine Gottlieb of UCLA, examined the “epistemology of gynecology” in the late nineteenth century in her paper, “Penetrating Knowledge and Attacking Mysteries: The Cases of Dracula and Dora.” By reading the novel Dracula in tandem with Freud’s account of his hysterical patient Dora, Gottlieb demonstrated how Dracula’s obsession with actual and metaphorical penetration pertains to the dominant medical discourse of its day. Just as the physician Van Helsing is allowed intimate access to the rooms, tombs, and bodies of his female patients, Freud’s narrative...

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