Speaker: Professor Pamela Gilbert (University of Florida)

The body brings together a number of vexing questions: it is ‘animal’ yet ‘human’; ‘natural’ yet the ultimate object of cultural inscription? The part of the body that most represents us to others is its surface: for Victorians, skin, especially of the face and hands, was an important medium through which to read character and selfhood, a membrane that both divided the inner and outer worlds and served as a medium for the projection and interpretation of interiority.

In this talk, Gilbert discusses Charles Bell, Charles Darwin and Cesare Lombroso’s discussions of blushing and the emotions. She surveys examples from both literary and visual culture to show how Victorian perspectives on the skin aid our understanding of representations of the relation between selfhood, the material body and the emotions.