Frankenstein. Werewolves. Dracula. These images aren't just imaginary creatures—they're also powerful symbols of the body. The body can be thought of as a machine made up of parts like Frankenstein's monster, or as a creature ruled by animalistic urges, or as an entity that's vulnerable to infection from a diseased fiend. In The Body of Frankenstein's Monster, Cecil Helman, M.D., expands our view of our bodies by exploring its cultural and artistic representations.
These inquisitive essays are a strong antidote to modern medicine's tendency to treat the body as a machine. A physician, anthropologist and folklorist based in London, Helman undertakes poetic, cross-disciplinary forays for high-tech medicine's connections to myth, magic and metaphor. He relates the placebo effect to mesmerism, interprets the Frankenstein story as a harbinger of transplant surgery and reads an X-ray image as a white-branched Tree of Life. From medical models of premenstrual tension in which women are slaves of a cyclical moon, he moves on to consider moonstruck werewolves, Sasquatch, Yeti and women's long, flowing hair as a symbol of animality. Germ imagery in daily language (``an epidemic of muggings'') leads him to unravel a ``germistic way of thinking,'' which blames our misfortunes on external forces. A medically informed social critic, Helman sees the watch and the clock as central icons of a civilization in which ambitious ``type A personalities'' are rewarded for their ruthless behavior.