Postbellum Portraiture and the Mind-Body Problem
This chapter traces a new visual genealogy of inner life as it appears in canonical late-nineteenth-century painter and portraitist Thomas Eakins’s work. It situates Eakins’s lauded portraits alongside the complex political and racialized questions about mind and body that emerged in the U.S. after the Civil War. It centers a reading of a marginal Eakins painting—Whistling for Plover—that Eakins gave as a gift to neurologist S. Weir Mitchell. This painting is a part of a web of inventive thinking about mind and body in the postbellum U.S., evincing the deep anxiety felt nationally over the bodily scars left by the Civil War’s racial violence, an anxiety that is essential to the development of the New Psychology as a discipline.
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