The  Elephant  Man

Dr. Robin Walz

Professor of History, University of Alaska Southeast

The Elephant Man— How Science and Commerce Reconfigured the Grotesque Body

Dr. Robin Walz gave a brief talk about how science and commerce reconfigured the grotesque body. 

Film Synopsis

A Victorian surgeon rescues a heavily disfigured man who is mistreated while scraping a living as a sideshow freak. Behind his monstrous facade, there is revealed a person of intelligence and sensitivity.

David Lynch's lucid period piece follows the story of John Merrick (John Hurt), a Victorian-age man afflicted with a disfiguring congenital disease (now known as Proteus syndrome). Shunned by society, Merrick has spent years suffering humiliation for his appearance, treated as nothing more than an animal and sideshow curiosity, until he meets Dr. Frederick Treves (Anthony Hopkins). With the doctor's help, Merrick struggles to regain his dignity and to show the world the profound humanity behind his tortured face. The film was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Director.

About the Speaker

Dr. Robin Walz is a professor of history at the University of Alaska Southeast, teaching surveys in world history, early modern Europe, and modern Europe, as well as European intellectual history, the Holocaust, and European popular culture as part of the BA in Social Science. He also teaches courses in the history of women in modern Europe and the history of gender and sexuality in the Women’s and Gender Studies minor program. He co-leads a UAS study tour of France as part of the minor in French. He received a PhD in history from the University of California at Davis (1994), an MA in history from San Francisco State University (1988), and a BA in history from Whitworth College (1979).