Embryotic Open Secrets at Bryn Mawr College

http://natalia.cecire.org/presentations/ • @ncecire

We know perfectly well that to inhabit
a shell we must be alone.

— Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, 1958

Bird News “deals with all college crushes and comes out daily on the bulletin board.”

Marianne Moore, Selected Letters.

paper nautilus

It often happens that neurotic men declare that they feel there is something uncanny about the female genital organs. This unheimlich place, however, is the entrance to the former Heim [home] of all human beings, to the place where each one of us lived once upon a time and in the beginning.

Sigmund Freud, "The 'Uncanny,'" 1919.

Gustave Courbet, The Origin of the World, 1866. Musée d'Orsay.

Raymond Pearl, The Biology of Population Growth, 1930.
Plate from Michelle Murphy, The Economization of Life, 2017.

Left to right: Edmund Beecher Wilson (PhD Johns Hopkins, 1881), Thomas Hunt Morgan (PhD Johns Hopkins, 1890), Nettie Maria Stevens (PhD Bryn Mawr 1903).

The Wistar rat. Plate from Marilyn Ogilvie, "Inbreeding, Eugenics, and Helen Dean King (1869-1955)," 2007.

Ernst Haeckel, aestheticized drawings of various sea shells from Kunstformen der Natur

Let us picture a living organism in its most simplified possible form of an undifferentiated vesicle of a substance that is susceptible to stimulation. Then the surface turned toward the external world will from its very situation be differentiated and will serve as an organ for receiving stimuli. Indeed embryology, in its capacity as a recapitulation of developmental history, actually shows us that the central nervous system originates from the ectoderm; the grey matter of the cortex remains a derivative of the primitive superficial layer of the organism, and may have inherited some of its essential properties. It would be easy to suppose, then, that as a result of the ceaseless impact of external stimuli on the surface of the vesicle, its substance to a certain depth may have become permanently modified, so that excitatory processes run a different course in it from what they run in the deeper layers. A crust would thus be formed which would at last have been so thoroughly ‘baked through’ by stimulation that it would present the most favourable possible conditions for the reception of stimuli and become incapable of any further modification.

Sigmund Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle, 1920.

Alejandro Lipschütz, Warum Wir Sterben [Why We Die], 1927 edition.

What better food

than apple-seeds—the fruit
          within the fruit—locked in
          like counter-curved twin


Marianne Moore, "Nevertheless"

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