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On FlinchingTheatricality and Scientific Looking from Darwin to Shell Shock$
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Tiffany Watt Smith

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780198700937

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198700937.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 23 September 2021

Darwin’s Flinch

Darwin’s Flinch

(p.39) 1 Darwin’s Flinch
On Flinching

Tiffany Watt Smith

Oxford University Press

Chapter One takes as its starting point Charles Darwin’s self-experiment at London Zoological Gardens, when he recoiled from a puff adder lunging from behind its glass tank (The Expression of the Emotions, 1872). Opening out into a larger discussion of the use of theatrical techniques of acting and spectating in his emotional experiments, this chapter argues that Darwin’s self-experiment replicated the ‘double perspective’ associated with the audiences of sensation theatre in the 1870s. The chapter concludes by arguing that the theatricality characterizing Darwin’s experiments also eloquently expressed wider late Victorian anxieties about the emotional body. Theatre and its vicissitudes become a primary metaphor for a newly unsettled relationship between outward physiology and inward feeling that increasingly concerned the scientific study of the emotions for the rest of the century and beyond.

Keywords:   Charles Darwin, The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, sensation theatre, G. H. Lewes, Victorian audiences, evolution, double perspective, Henry Irving

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