Since my research period is over, with this post I finish the misshaping by words blog publications. The blog will still be available at this link, hosted within the QMUL platform, as a record of the work I was able to do in collaboration and in dialogue with the wonderful staff of the School of History of Queen Mary University. At the same time, I’m migrating all the materials to my new blog, Zoom Out, where I’ll continue publishing texts and materials related to my research work, albeit in a slightly different perspective.
My greetings will consist in the words of Ernst Gombrich, who comments on a satirical image published in the UK during the last war, a modest little pocket cartoon that shows Goebbels watching Hitler going to bed and discovering that he really has the hooves of the Devil. “Himmel”, he is made to exclaim, “I thought Curchill meant it as a figure of speech”. I wonder, Gombrich comments, if we would be tickled if we did not sense for a split second that after all there may be some kind of reality behind the metaphor.
The third issue of the journal L’Età del Ferro has just been released. In it I published the following text, responding to the harsh criticisms opposed to the assumption of neurocognitive perspectives in the study of literature, and more in general to the most recent development in the field of humanities, contained in the journal’s previous issue. The complete title of my intervention sounds Doctor Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Humanities.
Non è il primo automa della storia, non è nemmeno davvero un automa, ma è uno dei congegni più suggestivi dell’era moderna, sicuramente il primo a porre il problema della concatenazione e dell’ibridazione tra essere umano e macchina. Per questo il Turco giocatore di scacchi, concepito nel 1769 dal barone ungherese Wolfgang von Kempelen per meravigliare l’imperatrice Maria Teresa d’Austria e la sua corte, resta una delle invenzioni più famose di sempre, un “robot” ante-litteram che non si lascia archiviare come una bizzarra curiosità antiquaria, ma torna a interrogare l’umanità, quasi come se tra i suoi ingranaggi fosse nascosto il mistero originario della tecnologia.
Last November 15 I participated in the postgraduate symposium of the Warburg Institute Mnemonic Waves, with a paper on caricatures and the post-Warburgian studies titled Caricatures as Pathosformeln. Gombrich, Warburg, and theEmotions, of which I publish here the text.
Next November 22 and 23 at the Department of Classical Philology and Italian Studies of the University of Bologna, it will be held what – to my knowledge – is the first Italian conference fully dedicated to the study of emotions from a literary perspective.
I publish here the talk I’ve given at the Mis-Shapingsconference last September 13 at Queen Mary University.
Do we believe in physiognomy? Do we believe, as the Italian anthropologist Cesare Lombroso did, that psychological, emotional, moral attitudes of the individuals can be divined by observing the shape and features of the face?
Types of criminals, from Cesare Lombroso, «Criminal Man», 1889.
No, of course we don’t. Physiognomy is pseudo-science, dismissed knowledge, superstition. We can’t make assumptions merely relying on appearances. Can we?
Actually, we do. We do it in our daily life, often unintentionally. But even when we look at artworks we allow us to believe in physiognomy. Continue reading →