What is Walking and How to Do It: Textual Estrangement and Experiential Anatomy in the work of John Weaver
Within the first few pages of John Weaver’s 1721 treatise Anatomical and Mechanical Lectures Upon Dancing, he launched into a description of the human head’s “two Parts (viz.) that which is Hairy, and that which is smooth; the former is called the Skull, and the latter the Face,” and continued on to describe how “under the Head you see a certain Round and Oblong Part of the Figure of a Cylinder, extending downwards to the Shoulder, and plac’d betwixt the upper and lower Regions of the Body, which is called the neck.” Weaver’s startlingly alienating descriptions paint a precise yet estranging picture of the body, as if the human head and neck were things Weaver imagined none of his readers had ever seen before.
Weaver’s text linguistically challenges the experience of the body as familiar. In this paper I reinterpret Weaver’s alienation of the body by aligning his authorial tactics with “experiential anatomy” practices of numerous contemporary somatic forms. As Weaver goes on to describe how to stand, walk, and jump, I argue that he approaches anatomy through how it is experienced, and seeks to redefine habitualized modes by which his readers would thus ‘know’ their own bodies and movements.
Lindsey Drury is a dance choreographer from New York City. She recently began a PhD as an Erasmus Mundus Fellow in Text and Event in Early Modern Europe at the University of Kent at Canterbury. Her PhD thesis focuses on Early Modern medical theorization of the dancing body.