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

How to Cite

Refskou, A. S., and L. Thomasen. “Handling the Theme of Hands in Early Modern Cross-over Contexts”. Early Modern Culture Online, Vol. 5, Feb. 2018, pp. 31-51, doi:10.15845/emco.v5i0.1291.


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.

Copyright (c) 2014 Anne Sophie Haar Refskou, Laura Søvsø Thomasen

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