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Projecting the Gaze: The Magic Lantern, Cultural Discipline, and Villette Sally B. Palmer The 1850s was a time of visual spectacle as entertainment: of looks and gazes, peeks and glances. Kaleidoscopes, panoramas, tableaux, circuses and freak shows, peep shows, and of course the Great Exhibition in the Crystal Palace all piqued the Victorian appetite for seeing and being seen. With its increasingly sophisticated use of projection , magnification, transparency, and mechanical optic techniques, one of the most popular amusements, both pubUc and private, was the stereopticon or magic lantern show. The eighteenth- and nineteenth-century rise of magic lantern entertainment both parallels and echoes Foucault's shift in punishment from punitive spectacle to prophylactic surveillance. On one level, the magic lantern's seeing gaze pierces secrecy and turns bourgeois spectators into voyeuristic self-poUce, a process that works to secure not only cultural submission but also assent. On another level, the stereopticon sude becomes a metaphor for the transparency and eUsion of discourse itself, dissociating seeing from being and suggesting the gap between visibility and non-visibiUty so important in the lantern show's "dissolving views." Bronte's Villette, a novel "preoccupied with the nature of vision." appropriates the magic lantern's imaginative projection, magnification, and subjective diffusion to provide Uterary "penal theater" that, in a Foucauldian view, privatizes repression even as it chaUenges strategies of ocular domination (Kazan 551). To begin with, a Utile preUminary magic lantern historical background may be useful, foUowed by a discussion of the theoretical aspects of cultural hegemony impUcit in stereopticon shows. This groundwork volume 32 number 1 Projecting the Gaze should make it possible to appreciate the connections between Villette and popular mid-century magic lantern techniques and topics. Pepys's diary mentions as early as 1666 a "lanthorn that shows tricks" (Cooperrider 1); from the late 1600s, magic lanterns were in the hands of travelling small-time entertainers throughout France, Scodand, and England (see Fig. 1). Lantern shows, set up on street corners and in middle- and upper-class homes, were especially popular with children. In 1845, a writer in The Penny Magazine recalls having seen many magic lantern performances during his youth, and small lanterns became popular toys (9). During the Victorian period the magic lantern broadened its appeal to all sections of society, becoming one of the most popular and respectable entertainments of the age (Humphries 18). Its shows in London were reviewed in Figure 1. An itinerantshowman, newspapers along with opera and the froman 1801 drawingbyGavami,theatre. The denizens of Haworth parwith his lantern and slides on his back (Humphries 13).sonage would have been familiar with such shows, if only in their traveUng versions, particularly those used in parishes for reUgious instruction. A magic lantern consisted, most importandy, of an iUuminant: first an oil-burning flame and then, with the 1801 development of UmeUght , a more sophisticated lamp. LimeUght was much stronger and, although susceptible to dangerous explosions, it enabled the projector to emerge from his previous position behind the screen and stand at the back of the hall, behind his audience. With the aid of a concave mirror, a condensing lens, and a magnifier, Ught from the lamp passed through hand-painted glass sUdes and was projected onto a wall or screen (Fig. 2). The first lantern sUdes were simply painted pictures or scenes; then Victorian Review (2006)19 S. Palmer "süp sUdes" were developed which showed two pieces of action, usually "before" and "after," such as Harlequin escaping a bottle or a dog jumping through a hoop (Fig. 3). In the late 1830s the famous "dissolving views" appeared that were to become synonymous with magic lantern entertainment . By placing two lanterns side by side and projecting their images onto the same point, it was possible to dissolve one view into another so that as one picture faded away, another took its place (20; see Fig. 4). Dissolves were also achieved by blocking the Ught to effect a sudden disappearance, whUe a Figun2 AdMbMmknkrnjromthe Second SÜde was inserted to replace the 1880's. Thetwo lensesmadepossiblethe fjj-gj-famous "dissolving views" (Humphries 24). Audiences thriUed to the spectacle of day turning into night or winter into summer...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 18-40
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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