On Flinching: Theatricality and Scientific Looking from Darwin to Shell-Shock

Hardcover | June 22, 2014

byTiffany Watt-Smith

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While the end of the nineteenth century is often associated with the rise of objectivity and its ideal of a restrained observer, scientific experiments continued to create emotional, even theatrical, relationships between scientist and his subject. On Flinching focuses on moments in whichscientific observers flinched from sudden noises, winced at the sight of an animal's pain or cringed when he was caught looking, as ways to consider a distinctive motif of passionate and gestured looking in the laboratory and beyond. It was not their laboratory machines who these scientificobservers most closely resembled, but the self-consciously emotional theatrical audiences of the period. Tiffany Watt-Smith offers close readings of four experiments performed by the naturalist Charles Darwin, the physiologist David Ferrier, the neurologist Henry Head, and the psychologist Arthur Hurst. Bringing together flinching scientific observers with actors and spectators in the late nineteenthand early twentieth century theatre, it places the history of scientific looking in its wider cultural context, arguing that even at the dawn of objectivity the techniques and problems of the stage continued to haunt scientific life. In turn, it suggests that by exploring the ways recoiling,shrinking and wincing becoming paradigmatic spectatorial gestures in this period, we can understand the ways Victorians thought about looking as itself an emotional and gestured performance.

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While the end of the nineteenth century is often associated with the rise of objectivity and its ideal of a restrained observer, scientific experiments continued to create emotional, even theatrical, relationships between scientist and his subject. On Flinching focuses on moments in whichscientific observers flinched from sudden noises...

Tiffany Watt-Smith is a cultural historian and a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the Centre for the History of the Emotions at Queen Mary University of London. She is currently working on a book about the cultural history of involuntary mimicry from 1850 to the present day. She is also working on a book for wider audiences, The...

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Hardcover|Jun 7 2016

$27.27 online$30.00list price(save 9%)
Format:HardcoverDimensions:230 pages, 8.5 × 5.43 × 0.01 inPublished:June 22, 2014Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0198700938

ISBN - 13:9780198700937

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Playing at Looking, Playing at Being Seen1. Darwin's Flinch2. Monkey F Startled3. Henry Head's Wince4. A Convalescent RecoilsAfterword: A Report to the AcademyAppendix (Ferrier's Notebook F)Bibliography