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Resuscitating the critical in the biological grotesque: blood, guts, biomachismo in science/education and human guinea pig discourse

Abstract

This article draws on Bakhtin and other cultural studies theorists to understand the role of the grotesque as a libratory moment in biology education. Four examples of texts and moments are analyzed: Sylvia Branzei’s Grossology series of children’s books about the grotesque, observations of a pig heart dissection, a standard high school textbook, and zines by and for human subjects. Findings confirm a powerful social leveling effect within the biological grotesque, but limits are also identified. Specifically, the grotesque itself can become a form of social capital in itself, and thus the material for establishing new hierarchies. The paper also examines the ways that teachers and texts try to limit the leveling effects of the grotesque.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    Penley has written of the K/S writers, mostly women Star Trek (1st generation) fans, who, frustrated with a lack of romantic arc in the story, created one between Kirk and Spock. These stories would be marked with a K/S to warn and advertise to readers about their explicit homoerotic and homosexual content. It is this convention of marking stories with a slash and initials that gives slash writers their name.

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Correspondence to Matthew Weinstein.

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Permissions Grossology images used in this article © 1995, 2002 by Jack Keely, used with permission by Price Stern Sloan Press.

Photo of Grossology Museum exhibit, © 2004 by Matthew Broda.

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Weinstein, M., Broda, M. Resuscitating the critical in the biological grotesque: blood, guts, biomachismo in science/education and human guinea pig discourse. Cult Stud of Sci Educ 4, 761 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11422-009-9186-5

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Keywords

  • Cultural studies
  • Bakhtin
  • Grotesque
  • Dissection
  • Human subjects
  • Children’s books
  • Discourse