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A Cross-Sectional Analysis: Slides and Lecture Notes


by sarah minor


Fig. 1.   Here I stand before you with a lecturer’s pointer—not a beam of light but a wand of real, pale wood. I gesticulate here. I swat the screen. Here is a confession and a search in time. I am tunneling before you, I am coming to decision. I am trusting that no relative hides among you in the crowd.

Fig. 2.

“Tomography and Cross-Sections of the Inner Ear”

Fig. 3. To begin: A Cross-section is a slice of inside at ninety degrees—a planar slice entire. To remove a section. To understand layer cake. To halve exact, and through a solid—read: animal, element, home, landscape, machine, or space. To subtract and make internals bare. Or a Cutaway –a nick at sharper angles. An almost through. The peeling away of one layer—now several are gone—to reveal the proceeding and below.                          

Fig. 4.


We come from old houses—this is the way I have to explain myself, my people, to tell you, with urgency, here is how things happened. This stairwell. That hatch in the ground. The windowsill, there. Our houses were centenarians, needed to be buttressed and bandaged, watched for ailments. A house that old is a way to be raised, to know hallowed ground and holiness before you learn their words. A house that old has outlived those who’ve loved it, knows that you are passing, that it is rather, to the house, that you belong.                                      

Fig. 5. In a cross-section, progressions are made clear. Each thing is in its place. Every organ is enumerated, and all the valves have names. No space is left empty, for none are. Like a map, most are scaled down, designed, wholly imaginary. Are, rather—an artistic interpretation of inner atlas.                                          

Fig. 6. The cross sectioning of animal flesh is one of the oldest practices in human culture.              

Fig. 7. Here is my sister, she keeps her complexities internal. She’s in school to plan cities now, mass transportation for the common man. She’s into tunnels and byways, team sports and muted colors. She is three years younger and already she is wise.    

Fig. 8.                                                    

“Atlas of Diagnostic Immunohistopathology”

Fig. 9. The cross-sectioning of human flesh was a crime once punishable by death.




Fig. 10. That house had real roots growing into it, its foundations close to becoming again ground. People had been dying and being born inside. They had been leaving their things there for generations. There was a lot of time gone unnoticed and stuck in places. A lot of quiet rooms that were once loud, and still rang. Inside, we walked in parallel with things considered long gone. There were two houses, actually, but they are one for me now—are something else entirely.

Fig. 11. Cross sectional renderings became popular in the 1940’s and 50’s as a method for explaining technical innovations to the American public in a time of mass industrialization. These diagrams helped the people understand that the mechanisms of the future were internal, they described how we were moving, where progress was secreted away.

Fig. 12. Still, in the attic, in the home my where mother was raised, is a dollhouse that opens in the middle, on a hinge. When one half is swung a staircase shows up inside, the widened bedroom divided, the tiny couch teetering on edge. The rooms used to have electricity, but now all the bulbs have blown. We kept the house cracked open, and knelt in the wide V of carpet it left us. We let a doll skip across the blank space if walking from fireplace to front door. Then we went outside and dug at the foundations of the outer house where the ground was pulled back like tissue receding from rejected organ, like a sea-eaten shore. We worked with objects we found wedged there—stakes, crumbled brick, broken lattice from beneath the porch. We had discovered something weak to worry, a crack our limbs could overcome. We wanted to know how long and how far down‌what comes from tugging at loose sutures almost undone.

Fig. 13.

“The Brain of the Cat in Section”

Fig. 14. I come from practitioners of medicine (qualifications include having dissected a cadaver entire). They are doctors and nurses and hypochondriacs (prescription pill poppers). Their basements hold stacks of slings and crutches, large volumes of human anatomy (small pharmacies, hidden flasks of the hard stuff). They know what we look like on the inside. When my father brought a cow heart into my kindergarten class, he let us pluck at the slabs of white fat encasing it, and peer into the wide empty arteries. He let us smell and clench it in both hands— formaldehyde, canned prunes. And for a time after, I thought my father was a doctor of cow hearts. I sidled up to the plastic models on his desk, looking the human heart in the eye, thinking its musculature foreign.

Fig. 15. In college I ask around at offices for extra models of skin grafts, transparent pelvises, cutaways of the skull—for a project, I say, one that never comes to fruition. Mostly, I want those mapping the body’s subterranes. I like the cleanly stacked layers and the processes between. The pores and pocketed organs, the cushioned tendons and bone. They detail how a body is really just a series of envelopes—all of the thresholds a human contains.

Fig. 16. Even Da Vinci exhumed bodies in the night.

Fig. 17. Then we move out of the old house—our dad leaves on his own. His plastic models stay for a time, but I do not inspect them again. By now, I know, that heart is supposed to look like mine. On the road through a Modern Divorce, there are barren wastings, birds of prey, Big and Little Sister Ways Out, at least. One is external, the other hides. One is vengeful and one accepts. One is more at fault. One is the wiser. One is visibly scarred. Both are, themselves, more likely to divorce. This is how we divide for the second time.

Fig. 18. “The Particle Atlas, volumes 1-4”

Fig. 19. In diagrams of segmental anatomy, bodies are cut into horizontal cylinders, like sections of a tree trunk—its rings now apparent. The inner patterns are beautiful and very terrible and so like the structures of a single cell, or a canyon wall, their precipices endless.

Fig. 20. And so I go from being the oldest of a divided family to one of two middle children in a family recombined. Girl, boy, girl, boy. We move out of the old house and into a brand new one. But we never use the step-pronouns—none of us but the middle brother.

Fig. 21. “A Cross-Sectional Analysis of the Non-Farm Work of Farm Family Members.”

Fig. 22. With my new dad it’s not organ models but casts of children’s bones—half-femurs and tiny phalanges. He comes home encrusted in orthopedic casting material, white at the cuticles, up to his elbows in dust.    

Fig. 23. “Atlas of Three Billion Years of Change”

Fig. 24. It is difficult to bring four humans of different genders into the same house during puberty. It is difficult being thirteen—things arise. I see my middle brother’s eyes slide down my torso during dinner. I see him motioning at us, come in the water, come in and take off your clothes.

Fig. 25. In a story I know, my best friend’s brother goes crazy. He is twenty-five and we are ten and he goes from playing rugby and bass and with us in the concrete basement to house arrest and a permanent facility. He hears voices, drastic tics. Schizophrenia is a disease of half-lives, the first half ends abruptly. This I learn later on.

Fig. 26. My middle brother gets into trouble a lot—I tell on my middle brother a lot. Everything but the things I actually should tell. Not always, but often. Sometimes it’s to try and save him, sometimes to show that I am the better-behaved middle child, sometimes for revenge.

Fig. 27. A true cross section is a finalizing act. It severs the specimen, crumples vital structures, renders unusable what was whole. The real thing is a single sliver sacrificed to study and inspection, to perspective. Something significant is lost in the revealing that the studied do not know.

Fig. 28. In physics, a cross section describes the likelihood of an interaction event between two particles.

Fig. 29. And here is my older brother, type triple A. He is lithe and sarcastic and practicing neurology. A field, my middle brother once commented, was way too meta to handle. He voicetextmessages and trains for marathons and dates women who work in the Emergency Room.

Fig. 30. When confronted with a cross section I always look for the people—in a segmented cow torso, a mangrove root system, the Death Star, I pay attention to the position of human figures, I am pulled to get inside with them, to pick out my room first.

Fig. 31. Here is my middle brother; the blackest sheep. He is the smartest of us all. He is clamoring and unkempt, into college and back out again, repeat. So addicted and so widely read, just one year younger, after all. He is the favorite of most of us, but he doesn’t have a clue.

Fig. 32. At this point I might assert a theory that women of my generation frequent in the dialogue of meticulous dissection (flaws, intentions, origin myths, infrastructures, recipes, mechanics, deep tissue…). They circle a root, eye the deepest limbs and lick their chops. They plunge sub-surface as soon as they are able—to many an end, ugly or otherwise. Or, perhaps I rescind—maybe I am just that type of woman. I dive for the act of seeing sideways into a thing, for the hunting down of a source to eradicate.

Fig. 33. On Christmas eve, when we are 22 and 23, we get high in the basement. My new dad, my middle brother, and me. The house is decked to the nines and my mother and sister are drinking sherry upstairs with our grandparents, in sweaters. We blow smoke out the window and my brother notes the loose threading of domestic realities, all the divisions our Christmas dinner will contain.

Fig. 34. Somewhere in the Atlas of Sectional Anatomy, I start to cry. The sections are photographic, not rendered by an artist, and their deadness is not played down. The human fat is the exact sheen of bacon, as thick as the kind I slice at my counter. I see a pair of ovaries on a table. A whole spine on its own. A human tongue in half. Many things looking just the same and I am not cut out for medicine.

Fig. 35. In a story I know my middle brother goes crazy. After twentythree years of devout atheism he reads the Bible like a fanatic, claims he sees its discernable, cryptic patterns. He calls three times a week to talk over the life of the artist and American culture’s misuse of the term “God” and makes plans to become a standup comedian in Austin, Texas. For months. And I only call back twice. Then he goes to the emergency room, and back again for overdoses of drugs he hasn’t taken. Is hallucinating, badly. Then he throws away his cell phone and sleeps for sixteen days. He throws up two bottles of red wine in my parents new-old house and my mother worries for the safety of her cats. He is sent to a facility where he’s not allowed booze, painkillers or weed, just Prozac and long doses of lithium and dixie cups full of vitamins that taste like Tang. Four cigarettes, one hour of computer time a day.

Fig. 36. I want to know where we stand now and how close. Why each of these things relates. I want to see the parts together in tandem, to inhabit impossible perspective. So I will gather Body Atlases, battleship catalogues in battalion, Animal Anatomies for Artists, roadmap histories, tedious brain surgery manuals, Atlases of the Underground. I will invest in the means others have to parse information, discern where things began, how much here is my fault.

Fig. 37. In my parents’ new old house there are bats in the walls, 25, they say, and counting. Not in but between, they say, where two walls can’t meet and a space is left vacant. Now they live with 25 bats, my mother says, and one schizophrenic.

Fig. 38. “Risk Assessment through Applied Stratigraphy”

Fig. 39. Studying cross-sections, I see neighbors asleep side by side across one foot of drywall and insulation. The architecture of a bullet. I see the forty-five degree angle of an ant aiming for sunlight. That the clitoris is shaped like a wishbone and has four times the inner structures as outer. That the HMS Olympic crossed the Atlantic with a swimming pool inside. Where the pilots of a jumbo-jet dream. That the mountain beaver defecates only in the deepest part of his burrow, for months, until eventually, he is pushed on out.


Fig. 40. I study cross-sections of the state of Iowa, I look for signs of how we all came to litter our scraps into the same layer of sediment, here in a river basin, in the middle of this continent. We are healers and researchers, we are tunnelers through. We find blockages to eradicate. It is within us to find the deep root and pluck, but none of us can heal my brother, his source is all dune.

Fig. 41. Here is a closed space. Here I decide not to cut.

Fig. 42. I see how we separate ourselves from the outsides, the things that grow naturally, the cold, our own waste. I see how we claim and do not. I see the human desire to hold all angles in perspective at once. But a cross section is just a sample, a cutting, one specimen of microcosm. And my brother moves into a smoking room at the Motel 6. He does not return my calls.

Fig. 43. In terms of plate tectonics, an upwelling is the surge of something unexpected that was always present below a vulnerable fault.

Fig. 44.

“The Color Atlas of Clinical Parasitology”

Fig. 45. So when I dream now it is mostly of losing my own mind. Rather, I dream of what my brain thinks going crazy is like, which is maybe even too meta for me. Scenes of my family conspiring against and corralling me, of feeling normal— maybe better than—like the only one sane. That I am hyperproductive, suddenly able-bodied at math. I see greater intentions within works of art where I never did before. Then I am confined to a room, then to a jacket. I hear the word “crazy” annunciated with embarrassment, regarding myself. I think it’s probably the worst. I think you are the very last to know—that you may never. I think I am a writer and amount to little without my mind intact. My middle brother is a writer too.

Fig. 46. When, in kindergarten, another doctor-father came in, a dermatologist, I raised my hand within the stand of palms until the inkling slipped away. During the French lesson that followed, I blurted desperately MRS. MARTIN! What makes an itch?! Was hushed. Attention—You should have asked that before.

Fig. 47. It is difficult to pause in the threshold and grasp its reaches. I teeter there in the crossings between, strain to buttress and observe them like a seamonkey between glass. I read the panes for signs. I have the growing the sensation that I am searching for a fleeting thing continually in my peripheral vision. What I find there is a wordlessness, that the place I try to pin is, perhaps, imaginary. I see the locomotion of skinless things, woodgrains that map a century of blight. I trace the plumbing of a pearl nautilus, the hints of barrier between white and yolk. I seek more crosssections but am left still wanting, unsatisfied.


I want a cross-sectional of our two houses spliced together to signify my insides. I want the precise split of my family mapped, to see all the layers descending. I want the X and Y axes of girl, boy, girl, boy in visual display with details. I want a cross section of my own tongue, and its harms.


List of figures: Cover: Prior, Rory. “Caravan Cross Section.” Photograph. April 23, 2009. Hebden Bridge, UK. Flickr. Web. 22 Sept. 2013. Printed with permission from photographer. Fig 1. Stratford, Phillip. If these walls could Talk. May 1, 2009. Wallasey, UK. Flickr. Web. 22 Sept. 2013. Printed with permission from photographer. Fig 2. “The New Bessemer Saloon Steamer—Transverse Section, taken through the Saloon.” Drawing. Illustrated London News. Dec. 12 1874. Getty Images. Web. Sept 24. 2013. Fig 3. “Sub-Structure of Marshall Field & Company, Chicago.” Drawing. 1900. Postcard. Chicago Postcard Museum. Chicago, IL. Web. Sept. 24 2013. Hulton Archive. Getty Images. Web. Sept 24. 2013. Fig. 4. “1920’s Doll House.” Drawing. Bumble Button Antique Vintage and Graphics. April 21, 2011. Web. Sept. 24 2013. Fig 5. Shrek, Hermann von. “A disease of Taxodium known as peckiness, also a similar disease of Libocedrus decurrens.” Drawing. St. Louis, MO., 1899. Biodiversity Heritage Library. Web. Oct 8. 2013.

Fig 6. Brehm. Alfred Edmund. “Brehm’s Animal Life. Leipzig Bibliographic Institute.” Drawing. Biodiversity Heritage Library. Web. Sept 24. 2013. Fig. 7. Douglas MacPherson. “Picadilly Circus.” Drawing. 1931. London Transport Museum Collection. Web. Sept 20. 2013. Fig. 8. Büdeler, Werner. “Projekt Apollo - Das Abanteuer der Mondlandung.” Drawing. Dec. 17 2012. Gizmodo. Web. Sept 24th. 2013. Fig. 9. Shipscompass. “British Artillery Shell Fuse WW1.” Photograph. Flickr. March 31, 2009. Web. Sept 24 2013. Printed with permission from photographer. Fig. 10. “Section from South-East to North-West.” Drawing. Royal Ontario Museum Library & Archives. Rural Architecture; or Designs, from the Simple Cottage to the Decorated Villa; Including Some Which Have Been Executed. By John Plaw. [London] : Published by I. and J. Taylor, 1796. Plate XXX. Biodiversity Heritage Library. Web. Sept. 24 2013. Fig. 11. “External Muscles of the Horse. The natural history of horses; the equidae or genus equus of authors by Charles Hamilton Smith and Conrad Gessner.” Drawing. Edinburgh: W. H. Lizars, 1841. Plate 11. Biodiversity Heritage Library. Web. Sept 24. 2013.

Fig. 12. “A sectional view of the New York Public Library.” Drawing. 1911. Mid-Manhattan Picture Collection New York Public Library. New York City. Scientific American. NYPL Digital Gallery. Web. Sept. 24 2013. Fig. 13. “Recherches Anatomiques Et Histologiques Sur Le Cyclostoma Elegans (1887).” Drawing. Vintage Printables. Swivelchair Media. 20 Oct. 2010. Web. 24 Oct. 2013. Fig. 14. The Cow and Bull Plate 10. 1901. An Atlas of Animal Anatomy for Artists. W. Ellenberger, H. Baum and H. Dittrich. Dover Publications, Inc. 1949. Fig. 15. Hesse, Richard, Doflein, Franz. “Tierbau und tierleben in ihrem zusammenhang betrachtet.” Drawing. Leipzig, und BerlinB. G. Teubner,1910-14. Biodiversity Heritage Library. Web. Oct 1. 2013. Fig. 16. “VW Transporter.” Drawing. VW Transporter Instruction Manual July 1957. Web. Sept 14. 2013. Permission granted by web host. Fig. 17. Tavernier, John Baptista. “The six voyages of John Baptista Tavernier, a noble man of France now living, through Turky into Persia and the East-Indies, finished in the year 1670 giving an account of the state of those countries : illustrated with divers sculptures ; together with a new relation of the present

Grand Seignor’s seraglio, by the same author / made English by J.P.” Drawing. 1678. The Public Domain Review. Web. Oct 1. 2013. Fig. 18. Rutter, John. “Delineations of Fonthill.”Drawing. A cross section of Fonthill Abbey in Wiltshire, England. (1823). Wikimedia Commons. Web. Sept 24. 2013. Fig. 19. Humboldt, Alexander von. “Researches concerning the institutions and monuments of the ancient inhabitants of America.” Drawing. London :Published by Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme & Brown, J. Murray & H. Colburn,1814. Biodiversity Heritage Library. Web. Oct 15. 2013. Fig. 20. “Early orthodonture and medical dentistry. Mouth and teeth prosthetics; woodblock engraving, French. How to wire one’s jaw, and install upper or lower plate.” Drawing. Vintage Printable. Web. October 20. 2013. Fig. 21. Richardson, Charles. “The new book of the horse.” Drawing. London: Cassell and Co., 1911. Biodiversity Heritage Library. Web. Sept 26. 2013. Fig. 22. “Illustration of doll house cut-away; color painting. Educational. Prang, ca. 1903.” Drawing. Vintage Printable. Swivelchair Media. Web. Oct 20. 2013.

Fig. 23. Bojanus, Ludwig Heinrich. “Anatome testudinis Europaeae.” Drawing. 1819-21. Biodiversity Heritage Library. Web. Sept. 24 2013. Fig. 24. Ronalds, Alfred and Sheringham, H.T. “The fly-fisher's entomology : with coloured representations of the natural and artificial insect; and a few observations and instructions on trout and grayling-fishing.” Drawing. P.10. Longdon, Longmans, Green, 7 co., 1901. Biodiversity Heritage Library. Web. Oct 5. 2013. Fig. 25. Bourgery, J.M. and N.H. Jacob. “Traité complet de l’anatomie de l’homme.” Drawing. Paris 1831-1854. Universitatsbibliothek Heidelberg. Web. October 8. 2013. Fig. 26. Glen. H. “Hudson used unitary construction on its cars in the late Forties which allowed to be lower and wider than its competitors.” Drawing. Flickr. July 19. 2009. Web. Oct. 13. 2013. Printed with permission of user. Fig. 27. Pernety, Antoine Joseph. “Journal historique d'un voyage fait aux Îles Malouines en 1763 & 1764, pour les reconnoître, & y former un établissement; et de deux voyages au Détroit de Magellan, avec une rélation sur les Pata.” Drawing. Berlin: Etienne de Bordeaux, 1769. P. 13. Biodiversity Heritage Library. Web. Oct 7. 2013. Fig. 28.

Nomorekneecaps. “Dream Home.” Drawing. Nov. 7 2011. Flickr. Web. Oct. 2 2013. Printed with permission of owner. Fig. 29. The Stag, Roe, Goat, Plate 4. 1901. An Atlas of Animal Anatomy for Artists. W. Ellenberger, H. Baum and H. Dittrich. Dover Publications, Inc. 1949. Fig. 30. Noirohio. “Fig 3.” Drawing. Photobucket. Web. Oct 3. 2013. Fig. 31. Ribart, Charles. “Ribart Elephant Triumphal.” Drawing. 1758. Wikimedia Commons. July 7 2005. Web. Oct 29. 2013. Fig. 32. “Precious Stones North America 1(6).” Drawing. 1890. Vintage Printables. Swivelchair Media. Web. Oct. 12 2013. Fig. 33. “Fiber Loom.” Drawing. 1910. Vintage Printable. Swivelchair Media. Web. Oct. 12. 2013. Fig. 34. REtzius, Gistaf. “Biologische Untersuchungen.” Drawing. Leipzig,C.F.W. Vogel,1890-1921. Biodiversity Heritage Library. Web. Oct. 5 2013. Fig.35. Jones, Tim. “Key-Figure IX—The levels of the sections of the upper extremity with reference to the bones, principal blood vessels and nerves.” 1911. D. Appleton and Company. A

Cross-Section Anatomy. Albert C. Ecyleshymer and Daniel M. Schoemaker. New York. 1911. Fig. 36. Lowne, Benjamin Thompson. The anatomy, physiology, morphology and development of the blow-fly (Calliphora erythrocephala) A study in the comparative anatomy and morphology of insects; with plates and illustrations executed directly from the drawings of the author. London, Published for the author by R. H. Porter, 1890-95. Biodiversity Heritage Library. Web. Sept 24. 2013. Fig. 37. Jones, Tim. “Fig 27. This section passes through the upper margin of the ninth intervertebral disk.” 1911. D. Appleton and Company. A Cross-Section Anatomy. Albert C. Ecyleshymer and Daniel M. Schoemaker. New York. 1911. Fig. 38. Dorling Kindersley. “Illustration of global snowlines, on the equator (Mount Kenya); the European Alps, and in polar regions (Mount Vinson, Antarctica).” Drawing. Getty Images. Web. Oct. 29 2013. License purchased from Getty Images. Fig. 39. Parker, Prof. Greg. Curcubits Cross Section. November 2, 2010. University of Southampton, UK. Web. 22 Sept. 2013. Printed with permission from photographer. Fig. 40. Jonathan Mess. “Landfill No. 44: Northern Cross Section.” Photograph. Feb. 28 2012. Flickr. Web. Oct .15 2013.

Fig. 41. (no image) Fig. 42. Bonnier. Competition Design for a rural home. Blaargh. Tumblr. Fig. 43. “House Built into the root of a tree.” Drawing. 1906. Vintage Printables. Swivelchair Media. Web. Sept. 20 2013. Fig. 44. Anderson, Johann. “Mit Kupfern, und einer nach den neuesten und in diesem Werke angegebenen Entdeckungen, genau eingerichteten Landcharte.” Drawing. 1746. Biodiversity Heritage Library. Web. Sept. 20 2013. Fig. 45. Schreber, Johann Christian Daniel. “Die Säugthiere in Abbildungen nach der Natur.” Drawing. 1846. Biodiversity Heritage Library. Web. Sept. 24. 2013. Fig. 46. “Chirugicale illustree, anatomy in color.” Drawing. 1911. Vintage Printable. Swivelchair Media. Web. Oct. 6 2013. Fig. 47. Jaques-Fabien Gautier-Dagoty. “Back of Female.” Engraving. 1746. Vintage Printable. Swivelchair Media. Web. Oct. 6 2013.

A Cross-Sectional Analysis: Slides and Lecture Notes  

Seneca Review, Beyond Category. By Sarah Minor

A Cross-Sectional Analysis: Slides and Lecture Notes  

Seneca Review, Beyond Category. By Sarah Minor