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Event Series Event Series: Gender + Sexualities

Deadly Curves: Dissection and Desire in Japan, 1879-1930 (Paper Workshop)

March 16, 2023 @ 2:00 pm - 3:30 pm

Please join us for our final Gender + Sexualities Paper Workshop of the Winter Quarter on Thursday, 16 March, at 2 PM. 

We will meet in HSSB 4041 to discuss Kandra Polantis, “Deadly Curves: Dissection and Desire in Japan, 1879-1930.”

You can find a copy of Kandra’s paper here. Please read the paper in advance and be prepared to share your observations and insights with the group. All are welcome.


Women appear as phantasmagoric figures during great societal change. As scholars have noted, figures such as the Modern Girl and the “Good wife, wise mother” served as cultural constructs to alleviate or contain concerns about shifting gender roles in Meiji and Taishō Japan. At the same time, stories of monstrous women that circulated during this time demonstrate the inability of these figures to contain gendered anxieties. My presentation examines a different cultural construct – namely, the figure of the beautiful woman on the dissection table – that horrified and enchanted journalists, novelists, and anatomists alike.

I follow the figure of the lovely corpse through newspaper articles that detail the “poison woman” Takahashi Oden’s execution and dissection in 1879. She also guides me through the fictional pages of Mishima Sōsen’s 1907 short story “Dissection Room” and Harumi Ryō’s 1930 horror novel Dissection of a Virgin. While the practice of dissection was coded as masculine and rational, I argue that the idea of women cadavers both allured and confused the public. Indeed, women’s corpses served as repositories for apprehensions about shifting scientific frameworks, changing gender roles, and the state’s increasing control over the body. The discourse surrounding women’s corpses on the dissection table – whether depicting them as objects of desire, anxiety, and/or scientific proof – demonstrates that the impact of dissection stretched far beyond the laboratory and into the public imagination.

All are welcome.


March 16, 2023
2:00 pm - 3:30 pm
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