Parts Party – ‘Ear ‘ear

Leave a comment

May 10, 2013 by Victorian Body Parts Conference

This week’s Parts Party post comes to you courtesy of the Wellcome’s glorious image archive. It is (brace yourselves)…a Victorian mourning ear trumpet!

Yes, that’s right. Many hard-of-hearing Victorians (apparently) wondered how they could show respect for their deceased relatives whilst still remaining abreast of what was going on around them, but they needn’t have fretted. This handy device was made and decorated in black silk and lace, so they could be respectful and hear things SIMULTANEOUSLY.

L0035592 A Victorian ear trumpet

Joking aside, though, I think this little device gives us a fascinating insight into how pervasive the Victorian culture of mourning could be, and how intrinsically performative it was. This is by no means a subtle device; indeed, when compared with a modern (barely discernible) hearing aid, it looks rather ludicrously ostentatious. It’s also an interesting comparison when you think about other Victorian prosthetic body parts which were similarly quite obviously not-of-the-body (I’m thinking of wooden legs, hook hands and so on). Have we become more squeamish about body/object hybrids in modern times, seeking to make these devices appear more ‘bodily’? Or is it just that the technology is now available to us to be able to do so? Let me know your thoughts, Parts Partygoers!

EC

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: