Physiognomic Discourse in the English Novel 1830 - 1930 (English Literature)
Eike Kronshage, born in 1981 in Wuppertal, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, studied Comparative Literature and Philosophy at the Ludwig Maximilians University Munich, the University of Copenhagen, Yale University and the Free University Berlin from 2001 to 2008. He graduated in 2008 with a master thesis on sexual violence in J.M.Coetzee’s Disgrace. From 2010 to 2013 he was a doctoral student at the Friedrich Schlegel Graduate School for Literary Studies, writing his dissertation about the physiognomical discourse in the English novel between 1830 and 1930. Since 2014, Eike Kronshage is research assistant at the Chair of English Literature at the Technische Universität Chemnitz.
His dissertation project examines the causes of the belated English reception of physiognomical theories and their impact on the narrative discourse of the realist novel. Given the reception of physiognomical theories in England started with a significant delay in comparison to continental reception, their high peak coincides with the period of the English realistic novel. Authors such as Brontë, Dickens and Eliot employ within their novels such pseudo-sciences in order to give the physiognomically trained Victorian readers direct access to the inner life of their characters. Physiognomy thus becomes a key medium for both the objectivity of the realistic novel and the promise of the impassibilité of its narrator. Later on, at the end of the 19th Century, when racist and eugenic theories affect the physiognomical discourse, its basic analogy model rapidly gets into a process of decomposition. With the direct access to the inner life of a novel’s characters in modern literature, physiognomy eventually loses it meaning as a model of inner/outer-relations. As a consequence physiognomy in modern literature is usually veiled or somewhat hidden. Based on close readings of selected novels by Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot, Joseph Conrad and Virginia Woolf, Eike Kronshage wants to provide evidence for this special development of physiognomical theories and to relate it to the contemporary scientific, philosophical, and psychological treatises of their time.