The Circulation of Physiognomical Discourse in European Theatrical Culture, 1780-1830

Mur, Maria-Christina (2016) The Circulation of Physiognomical Discourse in European Theatrical Culture, 1780-1830, [Dissertation thesis], Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna. Dottorato di ricerca in Les litteratures de l'europe unie-european literatures-letterature dell'europa unita, 28 Ciclo. DOI 10.6092/unibo/amsdottorato/7334.
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This dissertation analyses the influence and impact of the discourse on Physiognomy on European theatrical culture at the end of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth centuries. The debate about the scientific nature of Physiognomy prompted by the work of Johann Caspar Lavater, is discussed in the theoretical and philosophical introduction. Starting from the concept that Physiognomy refers to particular signs on the face, which can be read and interpreted through a well-defined system, this dissertation looks for evidence of a knowledge and awareness of this pseudo-scientific theory among various authors of theatrical works. The methodology applied in the two analytical parts refers to the semiotics of theatre and the subdivision of its material into “performance text” and “dramatic text”. The first part discusses the influence of Physiognomy on theatrical performance. Theatre is seen as a public space and the actor stands at the centre of the performance. The acting manuals published between 1740 and 1840, offer a large amount of physiognomic and pathognomic elements, among them, the theory related to the passions and emotions comes to be of crucial importance in this analysis. In the second part, the influence of Physiognomy on the plays is analysed. This part is dedicated to a text analysis of a selected dramatic corpus of plays in French, English, Italian and German. The analyses begin by summarizing some newly developed genres, such as Melodrama, Comédie Larmoyante, Drame bourgeois, Rührstück, and Bürgerliches Trauerspiel. Physiognomy makes an appearance in many different guises: in the so-called “physiognomical portraits”, for instance, where we find animated discussions on the passions to be displayed, and also direct references to Johann Caspar Lavater and his science. The text analysis ends with a contextualization of the dramatic corpus seen within a wider artistic production of the time (portraits, caricatures, silhouettes).

Tipologia del documento
Tesi di dottorato
Mur, Maria-Christina
Dottorato di ricerca
Scuola di dottorato
Scienze umanistiche
Settore disciplinare
Settore concorsuale
Parole chiave
European theatre, 18th and 19th Centuries, Physiognomy, Pathognomy, Johann Caspar Lavater, acting manuals, body language, theory of the passions.
Data di discussione
6 Giugno 2016

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