Thursday, January 12, 2006

Dreyfus in Chicago

"What does the nose job have to do with the Dreyfus Affair or Kant's theories of beauty?" (scroll down)

I want to know! Going to this talk, for me, would be like seeing an obscure indie band would be for a cool person. But I no longer live in Chicago, so I may just have to track down Professor Sander Gilman--who, it seems, either teaches or taught at Chicago--and ask.

Dreyfus's nose, from the photographs I've seen, was unremarkable, but was made to look enormous in caricatures- doing this to a nose even today makes the point, apparently, that the person being caricatured is Jewish, whether or not he happens to have a large nose. Periodically, a not-large-nosed Jew will get drawn this way, a minor anti-anti-Semitism movement will emerge, and the world will soon forget about it and move on. But the Dreyfus Affair was really a watershed moment in big-nose-caricature history, so perhaps that's the connection. Perhaps not, but I sure hope to find out.

According to the June 1998 University of Chicago Magazine article on Gilman, the other group pioneering plastic surgery, aside from the (Dreyfus-Affair-fearing? did they even care? I now realize I have no idea) German Jews, back in the late 19th century was the Japanese:

[Gilman] describes how in 1894 Berlin surgeon Jacques Joseph developed the first face-altering procedures, primarily in response to German Jews who wanted to reduce the size of their noses to avoid being stereotyped as cold and mercantilist. At about the same time, Gilman notes, some people in Japan began to undergo eyelid surgery, as they increasingly viewed single eyelids as dull and lacking life compared to those of Westerners.

Which I suppose would make Jewish nose-enlargement procedures sort of like Japanese hair-straightening. Discuss.


Dylan said...

The most socially inept fellow I ever met was a student worker with me in college. I was asking about his cultural background (Iranian Zoroastrian) and he asked about my ethnic ancestors. Mostly Irish, I confessed.

"Well, with a nose like that you must be a little German." Quite matter of factly. Sigh.

Seth said...

So people actually got nose jobs in the early 1900s? I wonder if there are pictures. I'd like to see what style they went for back then.