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The Eye in Motion: Mid-Victorian Fiction and Moving-Image Technologies

BUSH, NICOLE,SAMANTHA (2015) The Eye in Motion: Mid-Victorian Fiction and Moving-Image Technologies. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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This thesis reads selected works of fiction by three mid-Victorian writers (Charlotte Brontë, Charles Dickens, and George Eliot) alongside contemporaneous innovations and developments in moving-image technologies, or what have been referred to by historians of film as ‘pre-cinematic devices’. It looks specifically at the moving panorama, diorama, dissolving magic lantern slides, the kaleidoscope, and persistence of vision devices such as the phenakistiscope and zoetrope, and ranges across scientific writing, journalism, letters, and paintings to demonstrate the scope and popularity of visual motion devices. By exploring this history of optical technologies I show how their display, mechanism, and manual operation contributed to a broader cultural and literary interest in the phenomenological experience of animation, decades before the establishment of cinematography as an industry, technology, and viewing practice.

Through a close reading of a range of mid-Victorian novels, this thesis identifies and analyses the literary use of language closely associated with moving-image technologies to argue that the Victorian literary imagination reflected upon, drew from, and incorporated reference to visual and technological animation many decades earlier than critics, focusing usually on early twentieth-century cinema and modernist literature, have allowed. It develops current scholarship on Victorian visual culture and optical technologies by a close reading of the language of moving-image devices—found in advertisements, reviews, and descriptions of their physiological operation and spectacle—alongside the choices Victorian authors made to describe precisely how their characters perceived, how they imagined, remembered, and mentally relived particular scenes and images, and how the readers of their texts were encouraged to imaginatively ‘see’ the animated unfolding of the plot and the material dimensionality of its world through a shared understanding of this language of moving images.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Victorian, fiction, novel, technology, cinema, senses
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > English Studies, Department of
Thesis Date:2015
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:26 May 2015 10:55

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