Handling the Theme of Hands in early Modern Cross-over Contexts

Anne Sophie Haar Refskou, Laura Søvsø Thomasen


The human hand is a complex phenomenon within the contexts of early modern visual and textual culture. Its frequent presence in early modern texts and illustrations - as well as the many different types of described and depicted hands - raises a number of questions as to its functions and significances. In this article, we examine the role of the hand and two of its familiar functions –pointing and touching – against diverse and diverging understandings of human perception and cognition in the period focussing particularly on relations between bodies and minds. Through comparative analyses of cross-over examples from both medicine, manuals and drama – primarily John Bulwer’sChirologia and Chironomia, William Harvey’s de Motu Cordis and extracts from Shakespeare’s plays – we explore the questions implied by hands and their contributions to the knowledge probed and proposed by these texts and illustrations.

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ISSN: 1892-0888