In the second half of the seventeenth century, Sir Thomas Browne wrote that opinions and ideas have a way of transmigrating through history. This essay focuses on a very peculiar relation between two cultural periods, the Renaissance and the early twentieth century, marked by common interests, anxieties, prerogatives, and goals. The point of contact, the Ariadne's thread that "Skin Deep" follows to map out this transhistorical conversation, is the skin. For both Renaissance and late nineteenth and early twentieth century thinkers, artists, and writers the skin becomes the emblem of a cultural sensitivity that centers on the depth of the superficial, challenging long-established notions that place the truest part of our selves in a metaphysical interior. The essay looks at authors like Sir Thomas Browne, Hugo von Hofmannstahl, Francis Bacon, Franz Kafka, Andreas Vesalius, James Joyce, and many others.
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