New Book | Art, Science, and the Body in Early Romanticism

Posted in books by Editor on November 20, 2021

From Cambridge UP:

Stephanie O’Rourke, Art, Science, and the Body in Early Romanticism (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2021), 205 pages, ISBN: 978-1316519028, £75 / $100. Part of the Cambridge Studies in Romanticism series.

Can we really trust the things our bodies tell us about the world? This work reveals how deeply intertwined cultural practices of art and science questioned the authority of the human body in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Focusing on Henry Fuseli, Anne-Louis Girodet, and Philippe de Loutherbourg, it argues that romantic artworks participated in a widespread crisis concerning the body as a source of reliable scientific knowledge. Rarely discussed sources and new archival material illuminate how artists drew upon contemporary sciences and inverted them, undermining their founding empiricist principles. The result is an alternative history of romantic visual culture that is deeply embroiled in controversies around electricity, mesmerism, physiognomy, and other popular sciences. This volume reorients conventional accounts of romanticism and some of its most important artworks, while also putting forward a new model for the kinds of questions that we can ask about them.

Stephanie O’Rourke is a lecturer in Art History at the University of St Andrews.


List of Figures

Introduction: Bodies of Knowledge
1  De Loutherbourg’s Mesmeric Effects
2  Fuseli’s Physiognomic Impressions
3  Girodet’s Electric Shocks
4  Self Evidence on the Scaffold


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