Peregrinations: Hearts and Harvey

One of my recent challenges with this blog has been an editorial one. How do I determine what information belongs?

When I first conceived of this project, the intention was simply to go through and create a modernized version of Crooke’s text. I didn’t intend to post every word, but a paragraph or two here and there that represented the really interesting parts, along with some interpretation/insights. In looking back over my posts so far, I realize that has become a rather small part of what I’ve done.

This is, I think, because that narrow focus is only a small part of what I’m pursuing with Crooke outside of the blog. He is, after all, a far larger character than just “author of Mikrokosmographia,” and my interest in him has led me to far broader intellectual pursuits. I still see the modernized version of the anatomy text as an important project, and one I want to continue. But there’s a lot of exciting related stuff happening outside of that text, too – stuff that (it seems to me, anyway) someone interested in the text of the anatomy book might also find interesting. And sharing it here has provided a convenient way of documenting and indexing those discoveries.

I’ve realized this situation reflects the tension in my own scholarly work between close attention to the text and the book as a material object on one side and broader historical, social, and theoretical contexts on the other. I see too many links between these things to accept them as mutually exclusive. And I’m too interested in them both to neglect either one completely. But I have yet to identify a clear way of balancing them together—or maybe not just balancing, but joining. Perhaps continuing my multivalent blogging will help with that.

In hope that it will, I’d like to share a short paper I recently wrote that only very briefly mentions Crooke. The assignment was a close reading of limited length, and so that is what I have here, but I think there may be potential for expansion. As I mentioned previously, I’ve been reading Crooke’s better-known contemporary William Harvey for this class, and his De motu cordis (or, at least, one paragraph of it) is the focus of this piece. That book recounts the discovery of the circulation of the blood, and I explore a remarkable moment in which Harvey does three very interesting things: 1) Experiments on an animal that allows anatomy without dissection, 2) Philosophically ponders the definition of life upon observation of a “disappearing” heart, and 3) Shares his experiments with friends. I welcome feedback/comments/questions (although I have no immediate plans for revision/expansion).

“The Beginning of Life”: Seeing and Being in William Harvey’s De motu cordis