Reading and disguising faces
in Rhinoplasty and the nose in early modern British medicine and culture
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Chapter one engages with the modification and legibility of the body, focussing on the face, and introduces the special role of the nose in early modern culture. It examines surgical and prosthetic responses to facial injuries as a test to the limits of body work in early modern Britain. The chapter draws on sociological critiques of passing and capital to examine these anxieties, and their effects on the nose. Popular texts show a distinct concern for individuals’ abilities to pass as members of socially superior groups by disguising their bodies in significant ways. Women bore the brunt of these accusations, as satirists derided them as commercialised bodies, indistinguishable from their beautifying commodities. Fashionable men were mocked by contemporaries for effeminately modifying their bodies in similar ways, but the reconstruction of the nose was instead tied to a mask of healthy masculinity. The chapter therefore examines representations of male body work in contemporary texts, alongside the real-world manipulation of body evidence by men such as Henry Bennet, First Earl of Arlington. This facilitates investigation into the relationship between corporal self-fashioning and masculinity in the early modern period, and its place within transhistorical considerations of masculinity and plastic surgery.

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