Anti-Portraits: Poetics of the Face in Modern English, Polish and Russian Literature (1835-1965)
Kamila Pawlikowska, Seikei University, Tokyo
Anti-Portraits: Poetics of the Face in Modern English, Polish and Russian Literature (1835-1965) is a study of a-physiognomic descriptions of the face. It demonstrates that writers such as George Eliot, Leo Tolstoy, Edgar Allan Poe, Nicolay Gogol, Virginia Woolf and Witold Gombrowicz vigorously resisted the belief that facial features reflect character.
While other studies tend to focus on descriptions which affirm physiognomy, this book examines portraits which question popular face-reading systems and contravene their common premise – the surface-depth principle. Such portraits reveal that physiognomic formula is a cultural construct, invented to abridge, organise and regulate legibility of the human face. Most importantly, strange and ‘unreadable’ fictional faces frequently expose the connection between physiognomic judgement and stereotyping, prejudice and racism.