Posted by: lbrooksd | October 6, 2010

Physiognomy: Myth or Enigma?

Phew!  Okay, those articles weren’t easy reading, but ‘The Body and the Archive’ especially caught my interest.  This idea of physiognomy – the connection between physical appearance and temperament is fascinating.  It seems logical in a way that what lies within must be reflected somehow on the outside, and yet it is also totally outrageous to my modern sensibilities. However, this base idea is certainly less outlandish than the specific modes of distinction, differentiating between good and bad, healthy and sickly, etc.  The theory that a criminal can be identified by his facial features is ridiculous, yet the idea that our inner selves are somehow reflected in our outer selves has an appealing, justifying symmetry to it.  It is an idea both disturbing and attractive all at once, but more than anything I am intrigued – by the outrageous approaches, the ever changing rules of the game, and the lack of definitive progress to date.  Clearly the human face is a cipher that we have not been able to decode successfully, but is it a myth or an enigma?  Is there information there to be gleaned, or are we chasing an archaic idea?


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