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The New Physiognomy

Face, Form, and Modern Expression

Rochelle Rives

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A fascinating new study of the face, form, and history of expression.

Advances in facial recognition, artificial intelligence, and other technologies provoke urgent ethical questions about facial expressivity and how we interpret it. In The New Physiognomy, Rochelle Rives roots contemporary facial dilemmas in a more expansive timeline of modernist engagements with the face to argue that facial ambiguity is essential to how we value other people.

Beginning with nineteenth-century caricatures of Oscar Wilde's face, Rives reasons that modernist modes of reading the face perceived it as a...

A fascinating new study of the face, form, and history of expression.

Advances in facial recognition, artificial intelligence, and other technologies provoke urgent ethical questions about facial expressivity and how we interpret it. In The New Physiognomy, Rochelle Rives roots contemporary facial dilemmas in a more expansive timeline of modernist engagements with the face to argue that facial ambiguity is essential to how we value other people.

Beginning with nineteenth-century caricatures of Oscar Wilde's face, Rives reasons that modernist modes of reading the face perceived it as a manifestation of both biologically determined traits and scripted forms of personality. Considering faces such as sculptures of great poets, portraits of facially wounded World War I soldiers, W. H. Auden's aging face, and Cindy Sherman's recent photographic self-portraits, Rives reframes how to read modernist works by Theodore Dreiser, Edith Wharton, Jean Rhys, Joseph Conrad, Mina Loy, Henry Tonks, and Henri Gaudier-Brzeska.

Reviews

Reviews

A brilliant, rigorously researched, beautifully executed book in which Rochelle Rives encounters the problem of the making, unmaking, and understanding of faces in the history of modernity.

Lovely to read, in an age when reading has become newly difficult. Should reading be close or distant? Can we establish techniques that let the world reveal itself, or if we must read as a matter of course, why? If you care about such questions, this is the book you should read next.

Moving across a wide range of literary, visual, and theoretical material, this book gives a brilliant account of the transformation of physiognomy in the modernist period and in modernist culture.

Rives gives us a stunningly erudite exploration of the face as an allegory of modernism's struggles with form. The New Physiognomy illuminates a unique constellation of concepts gathered under the aegis of the face—personality, plasticity, mask, expression, reading.

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Book Details

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction. What's in a Face?
Chapter 1. Facing Wilde; or, Emotion's Image
Chapter 2. Realist Prosopagnosia; or, Face Blindness in Theodore Dreiser's Sister Carrie
Chapter 3. Nothing

Acknowledgments
Introduction. What's in a Face?
Chapter 1. Facing Wilde; or, Emotion's Image
Chapter 2. Realist Prosopagnosia; or, Face Blindness in Theodore Dreiser's Sister Carrie
Chapter 3. Nothing "Conclusive": Optics as Ethics in Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent
Chapter 4. Modernist Prosopopoeia; or, Making Faces
Chapter 5. Unreadable Persons: The "Face-Scape" of Old Age
Epilogue. "Getting Out" of the Face
Notes
Index

Author Bio
Rochelle Rives
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Rochelle Rives

Rochelle Rives (NEW YORK, NY) is a professor of English at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, City University of New York. She is the author of Modernist Impersonalities: Affect, Authority, and the Subject.