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Severed : A History of Heads Lost and Heads Found
by Frances Larson


Overview - The human head is exceptional. It accommodates four of our five senses, encases the brain, and boasts the most expressive set of muscles in the body. It is our most distinctive attribute and connects our inner selves to the outer world. Yet there is a dark side to the head's preeminence, one that has, in the course of human history, manifested itself in everything from decapitation to headhunting.  Read more...

 
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More About Severed by Frances Larson
 
 
 
Overview
The human head is exceptional. It accommodates four of our five senses, encases the brain, and boasts the most expressive set of muscles in the body. It is our most distinctive attribute and connects our inner selves to the outer world. Yet there is a dark side to the head's preeminence, one that has, in the course of human history, manifested itself in everything from decapitation to headhunting. So explains anthropologist Frances Larson in this fascinating history of decapitated human heads. From the Western collectors whose demand for shrunken heads spurred massacres to Second World War soldiers who sent the remains of the Japanese home to their girlfriends, from Madame Tussaud modeling the guillotined head of Robespierre to Damien Hirst photographing decapitated heads in city morgues, from grave-robbing phrenologists to skull-obsessed scientists, Larson explores our macabre fixation with severed heads.

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780871404541
  • ISBN-10: 0871404540
  • Publisher: Liveright Publishing Corporation
  • Publish Date: November 2014
  • Page Count: 317
  • Dimensions: 9.3 x 6 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.35 pounds


Related Categories

Books > History > World - General
Books > Social Science > Death & Dying

 
Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2014-09-01
  • Reviewer: Staff

Larson (An Infinity of Things: How Sir Henry Wellcome Collected the World) delves into the grotesque yet wildly fascinating topic of decapitation. She begins her story by offering an explanation as to why disembodied heads have maintained such novelty over time: it’s because a severed head is “simultaneously a person and a thing.” Beheadings have always captivated, as can been seen from the popularity of historical tales, such as the exhumation and decapitation of Oliver Cromwell (his head then circulated a series of private collectors and was finally buried—the exact resting place a secret), and the frequency of contemporary internet searches for the decapitation of prisoners by terrorists. Larson mentions three contexts in which heads, sans body, have been prominent: in soldiers’ homes as war trophies, in the market that was created to sell shrunken heads to European travelers, and in science labs that conduct research on heads. Perhaps more relevantly for most readers, severed heads have been a noteworthy feature of many museums and religious iconography. Larson’s lively, conversational tone turns these morbid objects into something more meaningful than a mere expression of the macabre. (Nov.)

 
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