The dome of thought

Phrenology and the nineteenth-century popular imagination

By William Hughes

The dome of thought


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-4372-3
  • Pages: 336
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £80.00
  • Published Date: March 2022
  • BIC Category: LITERARY CRITICISM / Modern / 19th Century, Literature & literary studies / Literary studies: general, Literature & literary studies / General, Literature & literary studies / Literary studies: c 1800 to c 1900, History, Literature, Literary studies: c 1800 to c 1900, PSYCHOLOGY / Neuropsychology, LITERARY CRITICISM / General


The dome of thought is the first study of phrenology based primarily on the popular - rather than medical - appreciation of this important and controversial pseudoscience. With detailed reference to the reports printed in popular newspapers from the early years of the nineteenth century to the fin de siècle, the book provides an unequalled insight into the Victorian public's understanding of the techniques, assumptions and implications of defining a person's character by way of the bumps on their skull. Highly relevant to the study of the many authors - Wilkie Collins, Charles Dickens, and George Eliot, among them - whose fiction was informed by the imagery of phrenology, The dome of thought will prove an essential resource for anybody with an interest in the popular and literary culture of the nineteenth century, including literary scholars, medical historians and the general reader.


Preamble 'This far-famed skull': exhumation and the autopsy of talent
1 'Dr Gall, the anatomist, who gives lectures on the skull': phrenology in Britain during the first decade of the nineteenth century
2 'A field for quacks to fatten in': phrenology in the British Isles
3 'The doctrines of phrenology shall spread over Britain': George Combe and the rise of British phrenology
4 'That strange amalgamation of the two sciences': mesmerism, celebrity practitioners and the schism of 1842-3
Conclusion: The decadence of phrenology: materiality and meaninglessness in modern Britain
Coda The phrenology of Donald J. Trump


William Hughes is Professor of Literature in English at the University of Macau

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