Johann Kaspar Lavater Criticism - Essay

John Graham (essay date October-December 1961)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Graham, John. “Lavater's Physiognomy in England.” Journal of the History of Ideas 22, no. 4 (October-December, 1961): 561-72.

[In the following essay, Graham chronicles the reception and influence of Lavater's works in England.]

When Johann Caspar Lavater died in 1801, a leading British periodical, The Scots Magazine, quite rightly acknowledged that he had been, “for many years, one of the most famous men in Europe.”1 Part of his fame rested on his capable and conscientious performance of duties as a pastor and a religious writer, rôles which made him loved and respected by his fellow citizens of Zurich who literally flocked about him...

(The entire section is 5826 words.)

R. J. Shroyer (essay date 1980)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Shroyer, R. J. “Introduction.” In Aphorisms on Man, by Johann Caspar Lavater, pp. v-xxxii. Delmar, N.Y.: Scholars' Facsimiles & Reprints, 1980.

[In the following introduction to a facsimile reprint of William Blake's annotated copy of Aphorisms on Man, Shroyer recounts the publication history of Lavater's work and discusses its influence on Blake.]

Had Laurence Sterne undertaken another sentimental journey to the continent, he might have encountered a living representative of Shandeism in the Rev. John Caspar Lavater, Citizen of Zürich. A cleric noted for his unaffected piety and unrelenting efforts on behalf of the poor, Lavater was as...

(The entire section is 8968 words.)

Michael Shortland (essay date fall 1986)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Shortland, Michael. “The Power of a Thousand Eyes: Johann Caspar Lavater's Science of Physiognomical Perception.” Criticism 28, no. 4 (fall 1986): 379-408.

[In the following essay, Shortland briefly summarizes the history of physiognomy, then concentrates on Lavater's approach to facial analysis as described in his Physiognomischen Fragmente.]

In the classical age, a common point of reference in discussions of aesthetics, psychology, medicine and religion was the doctrine of physiognomy. In the earliest literature, the notion that a correspondence exists between the outer appearance of man and his inner character was advanced, deepened and extended to suit...

(The entire section is 12463 words.)

Edmund Heier (essay date 1991)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Heier, Edmund. “J. C. Lavater's Edifying and Physiognomic Ideas in Eighteenth-Century Russia.” In Studies on Johann Caspar Lavater (1741-1801) in Russia, pp. 6-36. Bern, Switzerland: Peter Lang, 1991.

[In the following essay, Heier traces the impact of Lavater's Physiognomischen Fragmente on Russian culture.]

Lavater's edifying views, as well as the total concept of physiognomic thinking, were introduced into Russia as part of the general wave of Western influence. One ought to keep in mind that Russia did not undergo the Western European Renaissance; therefore, the classical revival, and with it the tradition of physiognomy, entered Russia rather...

(The entire section is 9173 words.)

K. J. H. Berland (essay date July-September 1993)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Berland, K. J. H. “Reading Character in the Face: Lavater, Socrates, and Physiognomy.” Word & Image 9, no. 3 (July-September, 1993): 252-69.

[In the following excerpt, Berland argues that an evaluation of Lavater's comments on images of Socrates indicates that his method of physiognomy is not empirical, but instead “pseudo-inductive.”]

The physiognomists are easy enough targets today, especially since there exist some physiognomical texts that do assert a mechanistic system of fixed and direct correspondences. But there are also more texts that insist on maintaining the proper distinction between natural causes (innate tendencies) and the...

(The entire section is 4304 words.)

Ellis Shookman (essay date 1993)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Shookman, Ellis. “Pseudo-Science, Social Fad, Literary Wonder: Johann Caspar Lavater and the Art of Physiognomy.” In The Faces of Physiognomy: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Johann Caspar Lavater, edited by Ellis Shookman, pp. 1-24. Columbia, S.C.: Camden House, 1993.

[In the following essay, Shookman critiques the pseudo-science of physiognomy professed by Lavater, while examining its popularity, logical flaws, influence on German literature, and relationship to the visual arts.]

There is nothing more likely than the conformity and relation of the body to the spirit.

Montaigne, “Of Physiognomy”...

(The entire section is 9362 words.)

Graeme Tytler (essay date 1993)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Tytler, Graeme. “Lavater and the Nineteenth-Century English Novel.” In The Faces of Physiognomy: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Johann Caspar Lavater, edited by Ellis Shookman, pp. 161-81. Columbia, S.C.: Camden House, 1993.

[In the following essay, Tytler considers the immense, if generalized, influence of Lavater's Physiognomischen Fragmente on the nineteenth-century English novel.]

It is curious to reflect that when we celebrate the 250th anniversary of a famous person, we commemorate an event of which the celebrity himself almost certainly never had any conscious memory. Accordingly, there may be some who think that anniversaries should every...

(The entire section is 9219 words.)

Graeme Tytler (essay date April 1995)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Tytler, Graeme. “Lavater and Physiognomy in English Fiction 1790-1832.” Eighteenth-Century Fiction 7, no. 3 (April 1995): 293-310.

[In the following essay, Tytler identifies Lavaterian principles of physiognomy in British literary portraiture of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, discussing works by Ann Radcliffe, Sir Walter Scott, and Jane Austen.]

The study of physiognomy in the novel has become an established domain of literary criticism, with scholars intent on showing ways in which novelists of different nationalities were influenced by the physiognomic theories of Johann Caspar Lavater (1741-1801).1 The present essay, while...

(The entire section is 7364 words.)

K. J. L. Berland (essay date 1999)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Berland, K. J. L. “‘The Air of a Porter’: Lichtenberg and Lavater Test Physiognomy by Looking at Johnson.” Age of Johnson: A Scholarly Annual 10 (1999): 219-30.

[In the following essay, Berland highlights Georg Christoph Lichtenberg's criticism of Lavater's physiognomy, using the example of Samuel Johnson to elucidate contradictions and weaknesses in Lavater's theory.]

Johann Christoph Lavater, the great Swiss preacher and physiognomist, first introduced his Physiognomische Fragmente in 1775-78. His book took Europe by storm, and was speedily translated into many languages, including the English version, Essays on Physiognomy, Designed to...

(The entire section is 3662 words.)