Uta Kornmeier (ed./eds.)

Schädel Basis Wissen II
Texte zur Wissensgeschichte eines Knochens
[Skull Base Knowledge II. Texts on the history of knowledge of a bone]

Kulturverlag Kadmos, Berlin 2017, 398 pages
ISBN 978-3-86599-362-5

As the philosopher Hegel said, the cranial bone is “in itself such an indifferent, ingenuous thing that, imminently, it cannot be or mean any more than it is in itself.” And yet, in many respects, the human skull is much more than just a bone. On the one hand, it consists of multiple individual bones that only come to form a firm structure in the course of a lifetime; on the other hand, there are many different ideas, theories, and phantasms that transcend its material status: not only does it represent the individual whose unique brain it encloses and whose face it bears, but it also represents the human species as a whole. It is simultaneously part and image of the human body, a representation of body and soul. For Walter Benjamin, grinning rows of teeth and empty eye sockets make the human skull the most expressive and most expressionless part of the human anatomy.

This volume traces the thousand-year-long history of man’s fascination with their skull. The collected contributions from medical, biological, literary, and philosophical writings from antiquity to the present paint a surprisingly diverse image of a complex object of knowledge.