Facing The Animal : Physiognomy and Pathognomy in the Long Nineteenth Century

Newnes, Harriet and Elliott, Kamilla (2017) Facing The Animal : Physiognomy and Pathognomy in the Long Nineteenth Century. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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This thesis examines representations of animal and human faces during the late eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries to investigate how animal faces inform, challenge, and extend representations and theories of animality, and of the human face. Two texts that greatly influenced theories of face-reading are Johann Casper Lavater’s Essays on Physiognomy: For the Promotion of the Knowledge and the Love of Mankind (English translation published in 1789) and Charles Darwin’s The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872). They mark a shift between discourses privileging physiognomy, the immovable features of the face, and those focusing on pathognomy, the expressions of the face in motion. This shift had an immediate effect on the way that faces were viewed and represented both in terms of how species and individuals were classified and identified and how they were seen to mediate aesthetic and affective communication and response. This thesis argues that literary and scientific treatments of faces in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries are comprised of various negotiations between physiognomic and pathognomic discourses: for example, bringing about shifts from methods of face-reading that seek to classify, and those that aim to achieve communication with the face under scrutiny. Studying facial identification and interaction between members of the same species and across species boundaries provides a means to access new dimensions of these debates: it is through the animal face that these shifts are exemplified. Identification, classification, and communication with the animal face contributes to analysis of the relationship between observer and observed in face-reading discourse. In addition to Lavater’s and Darwin’s works, the thesis explores a selection of texts from a variety of disciplines, demonstrating that changing representations of the animal face infiltrate the images and prose of contemporary science, philosophy, fiction, and journalism. The dialogues between these disciplines engage debates surrounding evolution, theology, and the creation of taxonomical hierarchies of man and animals. This thesis is relevant to modern work across a variety of disciplines –– science, psychology, and critical animal studies –– as well as to criticism on discourses of emotions, morality, and aesthetics.

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Thesis (PhD)
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Publication of this thesis online is embargoed until 19/06/2022
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11 Jul 2017 14:06
Last Modified:
22 Apr 2024 23:27