Ph.D. Candidate, Department of American Studies, Brown University
2017 to 2018
Doctrine of the Skull: Phrenology and Public Culture in Antebellum America
Phrenology illuminates the relationship between popular culture and new ideas about the self that emerged in antebellum America. To promote their controversial doctrine of the skull, phrenologists mobilized a range of media forms. Novel modes of introspection and observation spread through lecture tours, plaster casts, character charts, phonography, books, and other varieties of print, visual, and material culture. Practical phrenology became an influential technology of the self, promising individual self-knowledge through engagement with mechanically reproduced media. Through an examination of phrenological sites of production and experience, my dissertation explores, in a material sense, how the self was made in the era of the idealized "self-made man."