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156 Canadian Review of AmericanStudies Revuecanadienned etudesamericaines For the casual reader, Harvey's spare style of argumentation and his tendency to explore the complexities of southern religious culture and identity to the point of contradiction might prove frustrating. On the other hand, southern historians and scholars of American religious culture will not want to missthis illuminating and suggestive book. Redeeming the South will prove invaluable for opening our eyes to the continued interracial negotiation that shaped Baptist churches even after segregation and for forcing us to think of postbellum southern Baptists as both a source and reflection of the cultural fashioning of a new south that embraced and thwarted progressive values in almost equal measure. Jewel L. Spangler University of Calgary Charles Colbert. A Measure of Perfection: Phrenology and the Fine Arts in America. Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press, 1997. Pp. xvi + 365 and bibliography and illustrations. By the seventeenth century, it was commonplace among the learned to impute "Natures and Dispositions" according to the size, shape, and arrangement of an individual's physical appearance. John Evelyn, a founding member of the Royal Society of London, expressed generally the accepted views about "physiogomony," the scientific scrutiny of bodily appearances, as "reflecting all our Passions and Affections, Love, Jealousy, Hatred, Shame, Sorrow, Fury, &c."(Numismata: A discourse of Medals, 1697, 293). During the eighteenth century, the European anatomists Franz Joseph Gall (17581828 ) and Johann Gaspar Spurzheim (1776-1832) popularized the term "phrenology," established formal philosophical criteria and developed an intellectual and social structure for the practice of delimiting personal character and individual abilities according to permanent bodily features. By the early nineteenth century, phrenologists in Edinburgh were claiming that the bumps and depressions on the external surface of the skull were manifestations of the variations in the sizesof the underlying organs, and thus not only a tool to diagnose innate mental characteristics, but an applied science concerning the practical study of the brain as a complex of organs which Book Reviews 157 served specific mental functions. As Steven Shapin reminds us ("The Politics of Observation," On the Margins of Science, edited by Roy Wallis, 1979), phrenology had claims to legitimate scientific credentials: the research of the Edinburgh anatomists was judged by their scientific contemporaries as providing original and valid observations of the brain's anatomy, while confirming existing notions of cerebral and neural structure. Phrenology enjoyed its largest audience in the United States during the early years of the nineteenth century. Here, the science of phrenology developed by Spurzheim and Gall was developed into a far-reaching programme of social and cultural reform. In America, phrenologists became identified with the party of progress, which sought to discover and eliminate customs that were contrary to natural law. Because it proceeded from the identification of what was innate in the human constitution as well as the limits of human plasticity, phrenology provided the scientific justification to criticise the existing order and also served as a platform to advocate social change and institutional reform. Charles Colbert's A Measureof Perfection:Phrenologyand theFineArts in Americatestifies the degree to which phrenology existed as a coherent philosophy aimed at understanding, explaining, and controlling the natural world within antebellum culture; indeed, phrenology enjoyed the status of "a plausible rascality" even among its opponents. Prehnologists regarded human anatomy as the result of the body's relationship with its environment; in other words, the shape of an individual's body was a natural effect of natural causes. Colbert's close attention to an extensive array of primary materials, including diaries, journals, and private correspondence, charts the career of phrenology in virtually all aspects of nineteenth-century American culture. His command of the topic allows an exploration of the phrenological principles which influenced the work of such diverse authors as Harriet Beecher Stowe and Walt Whitman, and which also underlay medical and physiological theories, social and educational policies,anthropology, spiritualism, and even architecture. For those properly instructed, phrenology was much more than a mere theory; it provided positive confirmation of moral behaviour, gender expectations, racial divisions, and social inequalities. Colbert is especially convincing in his discussions of the visual arts. Richly illustrated with examplars from contemporary masterpieces and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-114X
Print ISSN
0007-7720
Pages
pp. 156-158
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-02
Open Access
No
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