Severed | Granta

  • Published: 01/10/2015
  • ISBN: 9781783780563
  • 129x20mm
  • 336 pages

Severed

Frances Larson

Our history is littered with heads. Over the centuries, they have decorated our churches, festooned our city walls and filled our museums; they have been props for artists and specimens for laboratory scientists, trophies for soldiers and items of barter. Today, as videos of decapitations circulate online and cryonicists promise that our heads may one day live on without our bodies, the severed head is as contentious and compelling as ever.

From shrunken heads to trophies of war; from memento mori to Damien Hirst’s With Dead Head; from grave-robbing phrenologists to enterprising scientists, Larson explores the bizarre, often gruesome and confounding history of the severed head. Its story is our story.

Fascinating... lively, original, important, astounding, well-written: first class in every way

Sunday Times

Wonderfully original... a splendid example of plotting a new brand of history that cuts through conventional categories of science, literature and art

Richard Fortey 'Book of the year

Severed is clever, startling, profoundly informative, delightfully gruesome... Larson writes like an angel

John Simpson

The Author

Dr Frances Larson is an honorary research fellow in anthropology at Durham University. She is the author of a biography of Henry Wellcome, An Infinity of Things (OUP, 2009), which was part-funded by a Wingate Scholarship. The book was published to considerable critical acclaim and was subsequently shortlisted for the MJA Awards and chosen as a Sunday Times Book of The Year, as well as a New Scientist Best Book of 2009. She is also the co-author of Knowing Things (OUP, 2007), a book on the history of the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford, where she worked as a researcher after receiving her D.Phil.

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From the Same Author

Undreamed Shores

Frances Larson

In the first decades of the 20th century, five women – Katherine Routledge, Maria Czaplicka, Winifred Blackman, Beatrice Blackwood and Barbara Freire-Marreco – arrived at Oxford to take the newly created Masters in Anthropology. Though their circumstances differed radically, all were intent on visiting and studying remote communities a world away from their own. Through their work, they resisted the prejudices of the male establishment, proving that women could be explorers and scientists, too. In the wastes of Siberia; in the villages and pueblos of the Nile and New Mexico; on Easter Island; and in the uncharted interior of New Guinea, they found new freedoms – yet when they returned to England, loss, madness and self-doubt awaited them.

Frances Larson’s masterful group biography is a revelatory portrait of five hidden heroines of British scholarship.

Frances Larson on Granta.com

Art & Photography | The Online Edition

Undreamed Shores

Frances Larson

‘Miss C (who is fairly young and pretty) can’t go off by herself with a solitary man, however respectable, to live on the Siberian tundra.’