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Human variation and racism in early modern English culture, c. 1600–1750
Author: Mark S. Dawson

This book examines early modern English notions of bodily difference. Tracing how the English valued somatic contrasts, both amongst themselves and, as they ventured into and through the Atlantic, among non-Europeans, this book demonstrates that individuals’ distinctive features were thought to be innate, even as discrete populations were also believed to have fleshly characteristics in common – whether similarities in skin-tone, facial profile, hair colour, or demeanour. According to much scholarship, bodies thought to be constituted from the same four elemental fluids as Adam and Eve’s – the phlegmatic, sanguine, choleric, and melancholic humours – were not the stuff of visceral inequality. On the contrary, this book finds that people routinely judged and were judged on sight; according to the ostensible balance, or complexion, of their humours. Belief in monogenesis and Christian universalism notwithstanding, people could be sorted on the basis of their looks, and assumptions made about their ancestry, present condition, and future behaviour. Complexions vouched for distinctions in social status, physical cum moral fitness, national allegiance, and religious affiliation. Humoralism inflected both social politics and international relations. If looking at people racially is to group them according to perceived physical contrasts – in the belief these contrasts mark innate, inherited variations in physical ability, mental agility, or moral aptitude – which simultaneously justify their prejudicial treatment relative to one’s own group, then this book demonstrates how and why racism was fitfully part of early modern English culture.

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Robert Lanier Reid

the animal–human linkage as deterministic can diminish the rational-imaginative-performative power of major characters like Falstaff, Rosalind, Hamlet, and Cleopatra, who, in playfully comparing themselves and others to a smorgasbord of beastly humours and passions, vibrantly transcend humoral determinacy. 6. Paster exposes many absurdities of Renaissance humoralism, notably

in Renaissance psychologies
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Richard Meek and Erin Sullivan

medical humoralism as a means of explaining mental and emotional processes, both those of Richard and early modern individuals more generally. For some recent critics of Renaissance literature and culture (and Shakespearian drama in particular), Richard’s comments might confirm the notion that humoral theory was the essential model for understanding the emotions in the period, rooting such phenomena in

in The Renaissance of emotion
Mark S. Dawson

and passions in, and among Men and Women: This alone being the propinquinate cause, as the Stars are the remote causes of such differences.24 Astro-humoralism better accounts for the explanation often given for the immediate difference between western Europeans and sub-Saharan Africans. Reiterated in isolation by scholarship, the identification of African people as ‘blacks’, effectively as the perennial casualties of solar radiation, can seem absurd in our eyes, especially since we mostly think of ourselves as earthlings all residing within a heliostatic

in Bodies complexioned
Dorothy Porter

dosage plans ignores broader dimensions of balancing cultural conflict surrounding ontological and emergent meanings of the disease and the transcendent metaphysics of creativity. In this way it speaks directly to the central themes of this volume, which addresses the contingent scientific and clinical normativities of physiological and psychological balance and their relationship to models of the self. 10 Drawing out the historical determinants of contingently normative neo-humoralism threaded through the story of

in Balancing the self
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Peter Holbrook

fundamentally implausible, as are attempts to reduce consciousness to physiology. 14 Nagel is unpersuaded that physicalism or materialism offers an all-encompassing account of human experience. Likewise, in the Renaissance, as this collection demonstrates, humoralism was not the only system available for understanding human emotion. 15 Other discourses – religious, aesthetic

in The Renaissance of emotion
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Mark S. Dawson

mutability has been deemed inconsistent with the essentialism upon which racism would rely – the ideas that somatic differences are enduringly innate because they are inherited, and that outward contrasts, especially skin colours, must always be both signifier and signified. Humoralism’s demise therefore becomes a prerequisite for racism, with Mary Floyd-Wilson’s particularly influential study boldly stating that the ‘racial stereotypes [which] facilitated the Atlantic slave trade were incompatible with geohumoral tenets’.15 Others aver that there was a fundamental

in Bodies complexioned
Mark S. Dawson

To trace the persistence of bodily discrimination based in humoralism, this chapter turns to advertisements for wanted persons. By the mid-eighteenth century not only English cities like Bristol and Norwich, but also Edinburgh and Dublin, Boston and Philadelphia, had newspapers whose readers drew upon and continued to feed London’s press. Serial publication of advertisements made possible an information dragnet which people used to locate offenders, fugitives, and the missing. Examining these notices in series allows us to witness physical discrimination at work on a daily basis. We can reconstruct lines of sight, establish the most commonly drawn bodily contrasts, and evaluate their contemporary meaning for ordinary folk. Using a custom-built database indexing some 23,600 physical descriptions, the chapter shows how distinctions on the basis of somatic variation were clearly being drawn much earlier but the resulting patterns are unfamiliar. We can explain their peculiarity once we understand their reliance on humoral typing. This typing was traditionally concerned with questions of health and social status, and it was a process of categorising appearances which usually relied on a number of somatic signs even as skin coloration was gradually becoming the single most important marker for establishing difference.

in Bodies complexioned
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Mark S. Dawson

of the somatic prejudice described in this study was fitfully racist. The modern idea of race ultimately relies upon viewing human beings as organisms or monads. Whether alleged contrasts in the colour or condition of hair, eyes, skin, or blood, or perceived differences in the conformation of faces and skeletons, the physical variations by which people are grouped into races assume that these markers tell us everything we need to know about those so categorised, including what they think and how they will behave, now and into the future. For astro-humoralism to be

in Bodies complexioned
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Robert Lanier Reid

from Aristotle, Aquinas, and Primaudaye. Neither poet fully solves the problem of self-love. Chapter 2 : The poets also diverge in portraying the four elemental humours with their passional offshoots. The diverse humoralism of Spenser, Shakespeare, and Jonson is missed by those scholars who assume consistency in Renaissance humoralism, who exaggerate its material causation, ignoring the role of

in Renaissance psychologies