About face : German physiognomic thought from Lavater to Auschwitz
- Richard T. Gray.
- Detroit : Wayne State University Press, c2004.
Where to find it
Once associated with astrology and occultist prophecy, the art of interpreting personal character based on facial and other physical features dates back to antiquity. About Face tells the intriguing story of how physiognomics became particularly popular during the Enlightenment, no longer as a mere parlor game but as an empirically grounded discipline. The story expands to illuminate an entire tradition within German culture, stretching from Goethe to the rise of Nazism.
In About Face, Richard T. Gray explores the dialectical reversal--from the occult to the scientific realm--that entered physiognomic thought in the late eighteenth century, beginning with the positivistic writings of the Swiss pastor Johann Caspar Lavater. Originally claimed to promote understanding and love, physiognomics devolved into a system aimed at valorizing a specific set of physical, moral, and emotional traits and stamping everything else as "deviant." This development not only reinforced racial, national, and characterological prejudices, but lent such beliefs a presumably scientific grounding.
In the period following World War I, physiognomics experienced yet another, unprecedented boom in popularity. Gray explains how physiognomics had by then become a highly respected "super-discipline" that embraced many prominent strands of German thought: the Romantic philosophy of nature, the "life philosophy" propagated by Dilthey and Nietzsche, the cultural pessimism of Schopenhauer, Husserl's method of intuitive observation, Freudian psychoanalysis, and early-twentieth-century eugenics and racial biology. A rich exploration of German culture, About Face offers fresh insight into the intellectual climate that allowed the dangerous thinking of National Socialism to take hold.
- List of Illustrations p. xi
- Preface: About Face p. xvii
- Introduction: Physiognomic "Surface Hermeneutics" and the Ideological Context of German Modernism p. xxix
- 1. Science and Semiotics in the Physiognomic Theories of Johann Caspar Lavater p. 1
- Physiognomics and the Spirit of Enlightenment p. 1
- The Aporias of Enlightenment Semiotics p. 13
- Enlightenment Semiotics as Theoretical Foundation of Lavater's Physiognomics p. 27
- 2. Sign and Sein: Physiognomics, Phrenology, and the Dispute over the Semiotic Constitution of Modern Individuality p. 57
- Franz Joseph Gall's Phrenology and Lavater's Physiognomics p. 57
- Physiognomics and Individuality p. 69
- 3. Physiognomics between Humanism and Racism: Johann Caspar Lavater and Carl Gustav Carus p. 99
- Lavater as Forerunner of Racial Physiognomics p. 99
- Carl Gustav Carus: The Physiognomic Grounding of Racial Inequality p. 113
- 4. Goethe as Found(l)ing Father of Modern German Physiognomics p. 137
- The Founding Father as Foundling Father p. 137
- Goethe as Physiognomist and Morphologist p. 139
- Carl Gustav Carus: Symbolism and Racism p. 151
- Ludwig Klages: Metamorphosis as the Adversary of Stasis p. 157
- Oswald Spengler: Physiognomics as Anti-Systematics p. 163
- Rudolf Kassner: Unquantifiable Face p. 167
- Concluding Intellectual-Historical Remarks p. 174
- 5. The Emergence of the "Physiognomic Worldview" in Weimar Germany: Oswald Spengler and Rudolf Kassner p. 177
- The Physiognomic Boom in Weimar Germany p. 177
- Physiognomics and Cultural Morphology in Oswald Spengler's Untergang des Abendlandes p. 182
- Rudolf Kassner and Physiognomic Imagination p. 193
- Spengler, Kassner, and the Ideological Complicity of Humanistic and Racial Physiognomics p. 202
- 6. Constructing Race: Hans F. K. Gunther's Ethnological Physiognomics p. 219
- The Fusion of Racial Ethnology and Physiognomics p. 219
- Gunther's Racial Physiognomics and the Physiognomic Tradition p. 236
- Gunther's Conception of Cultural History p. 244
- The Ethics of Existential Decisionism p. 251
- From Theory to Practice: Gunther's Applied Physiognomics p. 254
- Conclusion p. 271
- 7. Learning to See (Race): Ludwig Ferdinand Clauss's Racial Psychology as Applied Phenomenology p. 273
- Modernism and the Physiognomic Gaze p. 273
- Somatology versus Psychology: The Methodological Breach in Fascist Racial Ideology p. 274
- Clauss's "Racial Psychology" as Stylistics of Character p. 286
- Clauss's Adaptation of Husserlian Phenomenology p. 302
- Husserlian Anschauung as the Ground of Clauss's Racial Panopticism p. 322
- Racial Physiognomics and the German Physiognomic Tradition p. 331
- Conclusion: Envisioning the Invisible: Technologies of Seeing in the History of Physiognomics p. 333
- Objective Representation: From Silhouette to Photograph p. 333
- Counter-Racist Physiognomics: The Photography of August Sander p. 369
- Notes p. 381
- Select Bibliography p. 397
- Index p. 429
This item is about
- Detroit : Wayne State University Press, c2004.
- Includes bibliographical references (p. 397-427) and index.
- lvi, 453 p. : ill., maps, ports., facs. ; 24 cm.
- OCLC Number
- Other Identifiers
- LCCN: 2003017664