Sharrona Pearl, Ph.D.

Phone: 215-898-8547


Ph.D., Harvard University
B.A., York University

Culture and communication, with a focus on the areas of history, sociology, women’s and gender studies, cinema studies, and theory of medicine in the body with a focus on the face (physiognomy) and its communicative role.  Visual culture; self-fashioning and visual judgment; science and performance; freak shows through history; gender and sexuality studies; celebrity “patienthood” and the performance of illness; queer bioethics; the ethics of images.

Sharrona Pearl is an Assistant Professor of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication. An expert on physiognomy – the study of facial features and their relationship to character traits – she previously was a post-doctoral fellow in the Committee on Degrees in History and Literature and in the Department of the History of Science at Harvard University.

Her research has resulted in the book, About Faces: Physiognomy in Nineteenth-Century Britain (Harvard University Press, 2010), multiple articles, commissions in book reviews, and four entries in Dictionary of Nineteenth Century British Scientists.

She has served as the keynote speaker for the Kern Conference in Visual Communication, a guest lecturer for MIT, University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada, and is the recipient of the Harvard University Certificate of Distinction in Teaching and more recently, the Carolyn and Erwin Swann Foundation for Cartoon and Caricature Post-Doctoral Fellowship at the Library of Congress.

  • Center for Human Appearance, Perelman School of Medicine.
  • History and Sociology graduation group, School of Arts and Sciences.
  • Cinema Studies Advisory Board, School of Arts and Sciences.
  • Core faculty for Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Penn.
  • Visual Studies affiliated faculty, Annenberg School for Communication and School of Arts and Sciences.
  • Board member of the Penn Forum for Women Faculty.


  1. Forthcoming book – Face/On: Face Transplant Surgery and the Meaning of Identity. The research behind the book is reflected, in part, through Professor Pearl’s work with the Perelman School of Medicine’s Center for Human Appearance.
  2. The dynamics and relationships around doctor-generated patient celebrity; investigating how the status of celebrity changes the doctor/patient relationship.
  3. The use of controversial images in classrooms – atrocity, pornographic, ethnographic and how their use produces or constrains the production of knowledge.
  4. Sensory history of media revolutions and our current moment of media change; arguing against the idea that society is experiencing a neo-Victorian moment.
  5. The use of digital media to impel religious practice, particularly on the part of the Chabad sect of Orthodox Judaism.



COMM 108: The Speaking Body and the Marks of the Mind in Modern Western Culture
COMM 405 Facing Race: Race and Caricature in the Historical Imagination
COMM 418: Seeing Old Media Through New Media Eyes
COMM 481: Nothing New Under the Heavens: The History of ‘Old Media’
COMM 426: Communication and the Bible
COMM 470: Freaks and Geeks: People on Display
COMM 610: Perceptions of Beauty


COMM 501: (Mis)Communication: The History of a Discipline
COMM 509: Directed Readings in Theory (with Carolyn Marvin)
COMM 713: Historical and Visual Culture Methodology
COMM 731: The Beautiful People? Beauty, Media and Technology
COMM 813: Historical and Visual Culture Methods

Prof. Pearl talks about her current projects

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Books, publications, and other work

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