The human face of early modern England

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This essay traces out the context that allowed numerous early modern thinkers to deny that animals had faces. Using early- to mid-seventeenth-century writing by, among others, John Milton, John Bulwer and Ben Jonson, it shows that faces were understood to be sites of meaning, and were thus, like gestural language and the capacity to perform a dance, possessed by humans alone. Animals, this discourse argued, have no ability to communicate meaningfully because they have no bodily control, and as such they are faceless beings without individuality and without a sense of self-consciousness. The ethical implications of such a reading of the human face are far reaching.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97-110
Number of pages14
Issue number1
Early online date3 May 2011
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • history
  • England
  • humanity
  • human


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