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Skulls, Selves, and Showmanship: Itinerant Phrenologists in Nineteenth-Century America

December 19, 2017 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm |

We invite CHS members and visitors to join us for a brown bag lunch talk with visiting scholar Kathrinne Duffy, doctoral candidate at Brown University.

“Come, then, one and all, and learn to know yourselves.” With these words, a traveling phrenologist advertised his lecture to the public. Phrenology was a controversial and influential science in mid-nineteenth-century America. Proponents believed that the shape of one’s cranium revealed one’s character — a materialist conception of the self that gave rise to novel modes of introspection and observation. To promote their science of the mind, practical phrenologists traveled from town to town, offering lectures and examinations. This talk will explore these sites of phrenological experience, from the backgrounds of phrenologists themselves, to the events and their impact on audiences. An examination of phrenology illuminates how the self was made in the era of the idealized “self-made man.”

We will provide coffee and dessert; feel free to bring your brown bag lunch to enjoy during the talk. Please RSVP by Friday, December 15 and indicate the program name and date by calling (860) 236-5621 x238 or emailing rsvp@chs.org. Free for members, free with admission for non-members.


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