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Phrenology and Physiognomy in Victorian Literature, by Boshears and Whitaker

01/01/2013 (Aprox)


Nevertheless, just as neuro lit crit is only the latest development of cognitive literary studies, the neuronovel is the newest way of using brainrelated issues in fiction. Victorian literature, to begin with, gave a considerable role to phrenology (Boshears and Whitaker 2013) [...]


Phrenology also appears in fiction from Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Spain, the United States, and most likely from all other countries where literature was informed by romanticism, realism, and naturalism (Bernucci 2008, Bottoni 2012, Cooter 1984, De Giustino 1975, Goscilo 1981, Krow-Lucal 1983, OehlerKlein 1990, Van Wyhe 2002, Wright 1982).

Vidal, Fernando and Ortega, Francisco. Being Brains: Making the Cerebral Subject (Forms of Living)....

A definition of phrenology with chart from Webster's Academic Dictionary, circa 1895

Source of image and caption

Abstract

Phrenology evolved from the work of Franz Joseph Gall (1758-1828) and Johann Gaspar Spurzheim (1776-1832), becoming a fixture in Victorian culture, arts and letters as well as medicine. Writers such as Thomas Love Peacock (1785-1866) and Thomas Hood (1799-1845) initially satirized phrenology, as did playwright and composer William S. Gilbert (1836-1911). On the other hand, novelists such as Charlotte Brontë (1816-1855), Charles Dickens (1812-1870), George Eliot (1819-1880), and the poet and essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) not only accepted the principles of this brain-based personality theory but exploited it in their characters. The popularity of phrenology in the Victorian period should in part be attributed to the popularity of physiognomy which, thanks in large part to Johann Christian Lavater (1741-1801), has been thoroughly embedded in Western culture since the end of the eighteenth century.

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Boshears, Rhonda, and Harry Whitaker. 2013. “Phrenology and Physiognomy in Victorian Literature.” In...

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Published in 25/02/2019

Updated in 19/02/2021

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