Profiled Series

The profile was long a favorite site for moral and character evaluations, even before the genteel paper silhouettes of the Victorians or the photographic mug shots of the criminologist. In the last decades of the eighteenth century, author Johann Kaspar Lavater wrote his influential Essays on Physiognomy, proposing the importance of “physiognomical lines,” as he called them, to elucidate character analysis. Informed and guided by a fascination with measuring everything from the angle of the forehead to the proportions of the body, the Enlightenment’s longing for knowledge contributed to the othering of difference across a wide range of subject positions, from gender and sexual orientation to the identification of “primitive” races: the Oriental, the Jew, the Noble Savage—to name just a few. Over time, numerous texts, treatises, and pamphlets have continued to shape ideas of beauty in the arts, humanities, and the sciences.


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