Jacket Image

Enlarge Image

234 × 156 mm
424 pages
121 illustrations
05 Feb 2018

Stand up Straight! A History of Posture Sander L. Gilman

Our bodies are not fixed; they change over time. They vary with alterations in diet, exercise and illness, and shift as we age. Our attitudes to bodies, and especially to posture – how people hold themselves, how they move – are also fluid. Our stance and gait are interpreted as healthy or ill, able or disabled, elegant or slovenly, beautiful or ugly. In Stand Up Straight!: A History of Posture Sander L. Gilman probes these shifting concepts of posture to show how society views who we are and what we are able to do by how our bodies appear.

From Neanderthal man to modern humans, Gilman shows how we have used our understanding of posture to define who we are – and who we are not. The book traverses theology and anthropology, medicine and politics, and ranges from discarded ideas of race to the most modern ideas of disability, and from theories of dance to concepts of national identity. Interweaving the history of posture with our developing knowledge of anatomy and cultural history, and fully illustrated with an array of striking images, Stand Up Straight! is the first comprehensive history of the upright body at rest and in movement.

EXTRACT: to read and download an extract from the book please click here.

‘Gilman skilfully traces our understanding of posture from the earliest Homo through classical civilisation and on to post-war art movements and contemporary working practices . . . Driving the chapters forward, however, is not chronology but rather the multiple discourses ensuring that the body politic stand upright. Gilman’s multidisciplinary approach draws on theology, philosophy, the military, medicine and art . . . Stand Up Straight!’s illustrations are wonderful . . . Cleverly, each chapter amplifies what comes before, until socio-moral “soundness” and physical verticality are linked beyond question . . . What Gilman demonstrates so successfully is that any history of posture is always a history of perception. The title’s bold imperative is a command barked at those whose posture supposedly imperils the nation, causes moral degeneration or decreases productivity. He has produced a valuable book.’ – Times Higher Education

‘In this well-illustrated book, the best picture – best because most unexpected – may be the one of a young Adolf Hitler, caught slouching . . . The photograph comes late in the book, well past the point when I realized that Gilman had written a pointed history of eugenics, pleasantly disguised as a book on posture . . . Gilman does not actually recommend bad posture as a moral and cultural corrective to the horrific damage eugenics did, and continues to do. All the same, that early photograph of Hitler, all slouch and paunch, reveals a human self-presentation tellingly different from the visibly erect one we know comes later, when pride was twisted and prejudice aestheticized. I recommend this book. I cannot recommend putting it on your head to correct your posture.’ – TLS

‘There is a grandeur to certain works of scholarship, a singularity of vision by which genius is defined. In this respect, Sander Gilman’s Stand Up Straight!: A History of Posture can be aligned with Simon Schama’s rapturous Landscape and Memory – another masterpiece of romantic historical philosophy – in terms of its cultural significance. Gilman, an American cultural and medical historian, shows an enthusiasm for his subject that is almost at odds with his erudition. The two vie for supremacy in a work that, within the context of history, parses posture for its role in our understanding of what it is to be human . . . Stand Up Straight! is more than a joy to read. It is a privilege to wander the labyrinths of Gilman’s gorgeously eccentric and intricate mind.’ – The Australian

‘Sander Gilman illuminates the historical significance of posture in the workplace, in our bodies and minds, in the military, and in culture. Underpinned by medicine, anthropology and social engineering, never before has race, disability and citizenship been so astutely linked to the ideal and image of standing up straight. A tour de force analysis, accompanied by extraordinary illustrations.’ – Ana Carden-Coyne, Professor of History, University of Manchester

Show all

Sander L. Gilman is Distinguished Professor of the Liberal Arts and Sciences as well as Professor of Psychiatry at Emory University. A cultural and literary historian, he is the author or editor of more than ninety books.

Introduction: Posture Beyond the Workplace
1 Posture in the World of Movement
2 Postures of the Mind: Theology and Philosophy Explain Human Posture
3 Chest Out! Posture’s Military Meanings
4 Medicine as Therapy for an Unhealthy Posture
5 Dance and the Social Taming of Posture
6 Education Shapes a Healthy and Beautiful Posture
7 Anthropology Remakes Posture: Lamarck, Darwin and Beyond
8 ‘Natural Posture’: Posture and Race
9 ‘Political Posturing’: Posture Defines the Good Citizen
10 Contemporary Posture and Disability Studies
Conclusion: Maps of Moral Posture

Photo Acknowledgements