In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

11 Introduction The Prime Minister’s first, foolish thought was that Rufus Scrimgeour looked rather like an old lion.There were streaks of gray in his mane of tawny hair and his bushy eyebrows; he had keen yellowish eyes behind a pair of wire-rimmed spectacles and a certain rangy, loping grace even though he walked with a slight limp.There was an immediate impression of shrewdness and toughness. —J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince At the beginning of Jeffrey Ford’s 1997 novel,The Physiognomy,the protagonist, Physiognomist First Class Cley, is on his way out of the Well-Built City on an assignment for his master, Drachton Below. He muses over his career as a physiognomist: After all my years of sweeping open the calipers to find the “soul,” skin deep, even a glimpse at a face could explode my wonder. A nose to me was an epic,a lip,a play,an ear,a many-volumed history of mankind’s fall. An eye was a life in itself. . . . . Jeffrey Ford,The Physiognomy (New York: Avon,1997).In 1998,The Physiognomy won the World Fantasy Award for novels. Parsons_LukeActs_JDE_djm.indd 11 9/15/06 1:27:18 PM 12 Introduction While such language may be strange to the modern ear (and hence the book’s categorization as “fantasy” literature), throughout history it has been commonplace to associate outer physical characteristics with inner qualities; it was assumed that you can,as it were,judge a book by its cover.The study of the relationship between the physical and the moral was known as “physiognomy.” Despite our unfamiliarity with the term “physiognomy,”our contemporary culture is certainly not immune to the practice of it. One can purchase a Digital Physiognomy software package online that “determines a person’s psychological characteristics and presents a detailed character analysis of that person in a graphic format.” A colleague of mine was told by his seminary professor that he would never be a great preacher because he had small hands! More seriously,contemporary practices such as “racial profiling”have their roots ultimately in the physiognomic consciousness . The post–9/11 politics and ethics of racial profiling continue to be hotly debated. The epigraph from Harry Potter at the beginning of this chapter shows that physiognomic categories are still effective in literary characterization. Physiognomy was of intense interest in the eighteenth century.Johann Caspar Lavater (1741–1801), a Swiss pastor and theologian, is best remembered for his essays on physiognomy, published originally in German as Physiognomische Fragmente zur Beförderung der Menschenkenntniss und Menschenliebe. Put simply, and as the epithet to the chapter shows, Lavater was convinced that the science of physiognomy, the study of a person’s physical features, was the ABCs to understanding that person’s character. He claimed, “Physiognomy, whether understood in its most extensive or confined signification, is the origin of all human decisions, efforts,actions,expectations,fears,and hopes from the cradle to the grave . . . from the worm we tread on to the most sublime of philosophers . . . physiognomy is the origin of all that we do and suffer.” Lavater’s entire . See “Digital Physiognomy Software—Match a Person’s Face to His or Her Character,”http://www . See Kenneth Meek, Driving While Black (New York: Random House, 2000). . See for example the conflicting assessments in Amnesty International’s report,Threat and Humiliation : Racial Profiling, Domestic Security, and Human Rights in the United States (New York: Amnesty International USA Publications, 2004) and Walter Williams, “Racial Profiling,” Capitalism Magazine (April 21, 2004); . Johann Caspar Lavater, Physiognomische Fragmente zur Beförderung der Menschenkenntniss und Menschenliebe (Leipzig and Winterthur, 1775–1778). . Johann Caspar Lavater, Essays on Physiognomy: For the Promotion of the Knowledge and the Love of Mankind, trans. Thomas Holcroft, 3 vols. (London, 1789–1793), 1:16–17; cited by Lucy Hartley, Parsons_LukeActs_JDE_djm.indd 12 9/15/06 1:27:19 PM 13 Introduction “scientific” theory was based on the premise that the mind (and soul) of an individual could, uniquely among God’s created order, be divined by a proper understanding of the individual’s actions, gestures, expressions , and physicality. Put simply, according to Lavater, you can—and should—judge a book by its cover. The collection of Lavater’s writings on physiognomy became one of the most influential books of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, partly due to its lavish illustrations and fine printing. By...


Additional Information

Related ISBN
MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.