Cover: About Faces: Physiognomy in Nineteenth-Century Britain, from Harvard University PressCover: About Faces in HARDCOVER

About Faces

Physiognomy in Nineteenth-Century Britain

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$73.00 • £63.95 • €66.95

ISBN 9780674036048

Publication Date: 02/25/2010


302 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

41 halftones, 35 numbered figures


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Although this book is clearly a cultural history of Victorian Britain, the resonances of physiognomy with current preoccupations and events are poignant. With pervasive concerns about the alleged invisible threats in our midst, any technology or idea, old or new, that promises to reveal those threats tends to carry weight. As Pearl rightly concludes, the promise of establishing reliable links between appearance and underlying reality was played for high stakes—and still is.—Alan Collins, The Times Higher Education Supplement

Pearl’s book is a brilliant and original contribution to the history of visual culture. It bodes well for the career of a young scholar whose questions are difficult and whose answers are compelling.—Sander L. Gilman, Bulletin of the History of Medicine

In this smart, engaging book, Sharrona Pearl shows that we can see Victorian culture through new eyes if we learn to look, as the Victorians did, with a physiognomic sensibility. Actors, criminals, the insane, rushed Londoners, Irish, Jews: all came to be categorized in this new form of gaze. Pearl’s inventive and expansive About Faces recreates for us this most protean of nineteenth-century sciences.—Peter Galison, Harvard University

This is a masterful study of how the Victorians came to see each other and themselves. Sharrona Pearl’s witty, incisive, and pathbreaking book uses ‘physiognomy’—the scientific study of faces—to tell us about the ways that the nineteenth-century British understood their rapidly changing social world, one face and glance at a time.—Alison Winter, author of Mesmerized: Powers of Mind in Victorian Britain

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