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Dr Martha McGill


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Invite students to ‘read’ their own or others’ faces using physiognomical theory, as set out in a 1700 London pamphlet. You can talk them through it or let them work from the document. Can be used in classes on the history of the body to reflect on beauty and ugliness, and early modern concepts of how body was expressive of character. Physiognomy in this period is not as overtly racialised as it would become in the nineteenth century, but the text does reflect stereotypes around crooked noses and thick lips. This should be handled sensitively, probably through discussion in advance. While it’s possible to invite students to read each other’s faces, I would only recommend this with a well-established class in which students are comfortable with each other. Another option is to invite students to do readings for celebrities or historical figures.