Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. For many readers, John Keats's achievement is to have attainted a supreme poetic maturity at so young an age. Canonical poems of resignation and acceptance such as 'To Autumn' are traditionally seen as examples par excellence of this maturity. In this highly innovative study, however, Marggraf Turley examines how, for Keats, an insistence on 'boyishness' in the midst of ap For many readers, John Keats's achievement is to have attainted a supreme poetic maturity at so young an age. In this highly innovative study, however, Marggraf Turley examines how, for Keats, an insistence on 'boyishness' in the midst of apparent mature imagery is the very essence of his political contestation of the literary establishment.
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- An Appointed Time.
- Keats's Boyish Imagination: The Politics of Immaturity.
Aug 09, Stefan Glosby rated it really liked it. A very handy guide to the work of John Keats. Turley takes the reader through Keats' most recognised works, highlighting the naivety displayed in his more erotic works. I may be a little biased Turley was my Romantic Eroticism tutor at Uni but this book is an absolute must if you have an essay on Keats due and are stuck for ideas. This is connected on the one hand to the way Rome is perceived as a vast museum containing a superabundance of important works of art, thus foregrounding looking as a conscious and deliberate activity. On the other, though, it is a function of ruin: It offers a number of visual metaphors that are in turn transformed and deployed in a group of texts by Percy Shelley, Mary Shelley, and Byron in which Rome is a key setting.
In these narratives, the status of the past and the effort to understand the present in relation to it are focused on sites of ruin, such as the Coliseum. Moreover, the fragmentary logic of the ruin plays as decisive a part as Rome itself. Because ruins have a double life, they point out while crossing over the boundary between the visible and the invisible, the material and the imaginary, the past and the present, and this is evoked in a series of reanimation scenarios, in which an element or artifact of the past appears to come to life in the present.
Later sections of the chapter broaden the discussion to address questions about viewing that ruins raise—on the ground and in the museum, as well as in literary and imaginative contexts. Straining after the sight of Rome, in order both to see it and to see beyond it, speaks volumes for the Romantic idealization of antiquity, and for its inherently elusive—invisible—character as something projected, constructed, even made up.
How much can I take in at a single glance? Can the grooves of old mental habits be effaced? This makes him a particularly self-conscious, indeed self-observant, viewer. In Rome, the sheer profusion of points of interest defeats the efforts of the writer: What can one do here with a single pen? Yet even the image-making powers of the mind are implicated in this crisis, where what is at stake is the adequacy of representation.
Goethe urges the necessity of seeing things for oneself before they can be brought to life by written description or commentary, but he also notes that looking requires repetition. Concerted, repetitive looking is intended to lead to a more complete understanding of the object, and yet certain things cannot be retained as images. The example Goethe uses is the sheer size of the Coliseum, which one loses sight of from one viewing to the next, and so is astounded by each time There is something overwhelming, and more than faintly suffocating, in all this. Clear-sightedness is for the future: To try to understand the present is to be constantly aware of losing ground, to be aware of the need for more time, fewer distractions, and a better grasp of the past.
The most striking metaphor used to convey this is, interestingly, of blindness. This is the religion of eternity. But there are innumerable apposite examples. At the same time, he plays a part in a narrative of transformative potentiality where commemoration and death become important themes.
Keats and Philosophy: The Life of Sensations - Shahidha Kazi Bari - Google Книги
His advent in the present, however, is unexplained and is complicated by his origins in a Rome that predates imperial buildings such as the Coliseum. His distress at the sight of what comes after far exceeds the distress of those who come after but look back. The story breaks off however, and is taken up, in a second fragmentary section, by Isabell Harley herself. She recounts her attempts to show Valerius Rome—a Rome, that is, to which he might see himself linked—and in this she is a kind of tutor and tour guide in one. This Rome is neither strictly of the present nor of the past.
Isabell takes Valerius to her favorite spot, a viewpoint from which all Rome, with the windings of the Tiber, may be surveyed. Yet the psychological force of her account is weighty in the extreme. In addition to being an uncanny body, Valerius is made literally to embody the uncanny spectacle of human power in ruin. Melancholic, displaced, and in despair, Harold is a modern-day Valerius who sees clearly what he imagines others cannot: Ruins offer for Byron and his poetic persona Childe Harold, as they did for Volney, a nodal point for conceptual, imaginary, and historical actualities to interact.
Aesthetic order prevails over chaos and decay. Regarded in this way, ruins are transparent because they are visible: By analogy, the ruins that he contemplates present a similar challenge: Rome is like a desert, blank and empty, across which, without chart or map,. Rome is itself such a Seeing Past Rome 77 page where it seems we write, or rewrite, at will. But it is also a haunting, apparitional presence, that is vestigially alive: It is, here too, a place for the convergence of past and present: His narrative, however, is in fact pieced together from fragments translated and reordered by an editor who discovers them in a cave near Naples in But this is not just any cave: For a time, he occupies himself by reading volumes contained in the libraries of Rome.
On one level at least the implied author revisits the past in order to rewrite the future. II Goethe, in his Italian Journey, clearly regarded our sense of sight as a weak organ in need of exercise. The eye delineates the limits of our powers, and used metaphorically, conveys as well the force of the desire to strain against those limits—a desire that Rome, for its material and visual richness, activates perhaps to excess and frustrates in equal measure.
Rome, rather awkwardly, shows too much and not enough: A place of surfeit, but also of the absence of the object. The idealization of antiquity had always, moreover, gone hand in hand with that absence. But Rome, seen through this lens, was also a substitute for the inaccessible ideality of ancient Greece. Winckelmann never in fact visited Greece, just as Volney had never visited Palmyra his description, discussion, and illustrations were drawn from other texts ,25 and indeed, the preservation of the distance between ancient and modern worlds is crucial to the sentimental longing that fuels a pleasurable investment in substitute, compensatory objects.
Rome is far away and partially obscured by mist, and yet appears surprisingly clear. Such a desire, with all its attendant anxieties, includes possession of the subject of, and in, the present. The desire for antiquity, and the desire to restore the sight of ruin, thus emphasize the historical situatedness of the viewing subject.
They tell us how the past looks now, because of the inherent anachrony discussed above. This is a problem illustrated rather effectively by popular scenes of antiquity that situated characters and events amid ruined structures that would have been in perfect condition at the putative time represented.
But it is also what makes the ruin an inscrutable and unapproachable bearer of the historically inaccessible, while making visible the act of bearing the past. Extending the logic of the fragment, the fact that the ruin is shaped as much by what remains as by what has been subtracted over time, means that what appears in the ruin is passedness itself: Moving for a moment from the ruins of Rome to the representation of those ruins, in paintings and in the space of the museum, the appearance of ruin in relation to spatial and temporal context further articulates the link between ruin and visibility: On balance, Maleuvre views the ruin as indicative of the suffering, the necessary suffering, of the past on its way to the present.
Context is important now in two senses: The perplexity engendered by the ruin may have different effects, but it is certainly not diminished. If anything, the right way of representing a ruin—how a ruin should look— becomes more contested, as the real object itself becomes more distant. Diderot would prefer evidence of a viewer more like himself within the view, and addressing Robert, he muses: You have the technique but you lack the ideal. Only those enhancing the effect of solitude and silence should be retained. Everything comes to nothing, everything perishes, everything passes, only the world remains, only time endures.
How old is this world! I walk between two eternities. Wherever I cast my glance, the objects surrounding me announce death and compel my resignation to what awaits me. Nevertheless, his critique of Robert maps onto the contrasting views of ruins sketched here in the last chapter. In part, this captures the experience of the museumgoer, who very literally passes by the displaced relics of the past, and for whom the unbridgeable gulf between the eternities of the ancient and the modern world is institutionally inscribed.
Later, however, this very abundance was clearly a source of psychological strain, and even established systems of judgment were threatened by new knowledge about the provenance of certain canonical sculptures. Museum culture offered an increasingly full visual experience, but of sight without site, so to speak. III Literary texts of the Romantic period, as texts, were an appropriate medium through which to explore the way Rome was resistant to visual appropriation; writing rises thus to the challenge of vision in all its material, temporal, and historical instability.
The painting of pendants would often have had a primarily comparative, illustrative, and explicitly didactic point, as in the juxtaposition of classical and romantic renderings of a given scene. In the case of Rome, ancient pagan and modern Renaissance, Baroque, and Christian monuments were often carefully distinguished from one another: In such pendants, visual order is provided to counter the chaos of Roman monuments and artifacts in their natural locations. The widespread popularity of contrastive scenes of this kind speaks for their inherent appeal, and indeed the visual evidence of time passing and of past times , remains a source of interest and wonder, for reasons not too distant from those that engage viewers of ruins.
Such an urge derived, in part, from a prevailing sense of disappointment with modern Rome, and also informed the popularity of viewing the Coliseum by moonlight, or the Apollo by torchlight. Seeing Past Rome 87 into pictures, and so elevate them to the status of framed sights. It is a remarkably consistent feature of Romantic accounts of travel through Italy to Rome, that contemporary Italian culture was marginalized if not disparaged. Worse, while its landscapes were reanimated by the people and events of the storied past, contemporary Italy was portrayed as largely dead or vacant: In this vein, a not untypical remark is made by P.
Shelley in a letter to Peacock: Writing this time to Leigh Hunt, Shelley remarks: It is entirely appropriate that ruins, as a subject, would elicit such a response, as it is the power of imaginative possibility, juxtaposed with the actual, that captures the interest of the beholder.
Another method would of course be to divide the task, as later painters did, and take a sequential approach to place and time. Giovanni Battista Piranesi, Interior of the Colosseum. In the previous year, Samuel Palmer, also following what had become something of an established convention, had exhibited a pair of paintings at the Royal Academy: Both views, however, were in fact of Rome in , and the distinction between ancient and modern has to do with choice of subject matter, for as this pairing shows, ancient and modern coexist. Excavations around the Column of Phocas in the foreground show by contrast how buried were the remnants of the ancient world, and how vacant and pastoral the Forum Figure 4.
Seeing Past Rome 91 Figure 4. Turner, Modern Rome—Campo Vaccino, Private collection on loan to the National Gallery of Scotland. Samuel Palmer, A view of Ancient Rome, Samuel Palmer, A view of Modern Rome during carnival, On the left, where the two churches of Santa Maria dei Miracoli and Santa Maria in Montesanto mark the entrance to the Corso, Palmer shows a popular carnival tradition: Arthur Asphitel, Rome as it was, restored after Existing Remains, Seeing Past Rome 93 approach to composing the view, which combines what is visible from two adjacent viewpoints, but fully visible from neither: Although the viewpoint was endorsed by the guidebooks, few pictures were composed there because of the particular problems thrown up by the perspective at such an elevation.
In both cases, the visible view is supplemented by the invisible. A slightly later pair of pictures, by Arthur Ashpitel dating from and , Figures 4. Trained as an architect, Ashpitel devoted much of his later life to antiquarian and archaeological studies. Using the evidence of surviving remains, and of current archaeological knowledge, Ashpitel constructed a topographically and historically convincing panorama of the city from a well-known viewpoint.
In contrast to the examples from Turner and Palmer, it is possible in this case for the viewer to trace a ruin back to its previous whole, which, rather like the Parthenon marbles brought up close, becomes surprisingly unfamiliar and virtually unrecognizable. Taken together, both views offer an insight into Figure 4.
Arthur Asphitel, Rome as it is, from the Palatine Hill, This turning inside out indicates a different perspective on the past, one that emphasizes the vantage point of the historical subject in the present, in response to what is buried or obliterated by time. As Goethe remarks in his Italian Journey: Arguably, the opening up of Rome to view in visual reconstruction corresponds to the idea of Rome as an historical vantage point that is temporally inverted and interiorized. The double view, while making two distinct visual statements, suggests nevertheless a possible reconciliation—analogous to what the stereoscope, popularized in the s,52 accomplished in spatial terms—where a hidden dimension could be brought into view.
Yet, the desire for visual continuity is largely impossible to satisfy: Shelley, Letters1 Writing to Thomas Love Peacock from Italy in , Shelley refers to a form of seeing past that is habitual, rather than occasioned by any one particular sight or event, such as that experienced by visitors to Rome. This chapter, likewise, shifts attention more fully to the text—to the ideology and rhetoric of vision in Romantic poetry, which brings into clearer focus the tension in Romanticism between the visual and the visionary, the material and the imaginary.
This relationship, I suggest, is one of productive antagonism: Nevertheless, the visual is to some extent internalized Romantic Idealism and the Interference of Sight 97 or mirrored inwardly, as a later passage suggests. The view of the landscape produces, in a manner reminiscent of the camera obscura, its inner double.
In The Prelude, Wordsworth examines himself closely in order to understand more clearly the process by which the object world establishes— informs—the architecture of the mind. Indeed, some of the lines cited above, which Wordsworth included in the version of The Prelude from 2. The early sense of being confounded has its later analogue in the dynamic of the sublime.
One might say, meanwhile, that in early life, looking is a belated activity: Once again for this statement recalls the Prelude lines noted above, in which a view becomes a dream, or a prospect, in the mind , a dream-image is granted representational, living power, where the effect is to emphasize the continued life of things seen in the mind. Sound needed none, Nor any voice of joy; his spirit drank The spectacle: To see, in this way, is precisely that visionary tendency that Ruskin celebrated in Modern Painters as a rare gift: The thematic oscillation between gain and loss, as the poem moves between past, present and future—all the while mediated by the memory of images—is driven fundamentally by the question of absence: Wordsworth did not, moreover, write at the scene, as the poem seems to suggest.
Second, there is a certain hesitation over the question of priority: That Wordsworth formulates so frequently this central dilemma suggests a compelling fascination with the resistance not just of the visible to moral and metaphysical speculation, but of the invisible to acts of imaginative penetration. This underscores the dissonance between the visual and the imaginary, for they are ultimately incommensurable.
It is not, then, simply the case that Wordsworth uses instances of the naturally visible as a springboard into the imagined, but rather as a way into, at a limit, things that repudiate visualization altogether. In this, what I am proposing as the joint action of the inference and the interference of the visible come into play, by inviting and confounding the poet, and arguably what Wordsworth seeks to grasp is the relation of that joint action to something ever more other, and other in its habitual invisibility. In a loose sense at least, this general view of the naturally visible as a conceptual pathway to the materially inaccessible, to what impedes and resists visualization, is shared by Shelley.
The central mystery, splendour, or beauty in nature, and its correspondent human or poetic meaning, remains inherently inexplicable—and yet, although it operates at a double remove, it is intuitively perceptible. The poet must search in the shadows for knowledge of the ideal, a knowledge that is both intuitive and structurally analogical. The river, he muses, functions in relation to the ravine as the ravine does to the human mind: Shelley is, here, comparatively unconscious of the visual process, passing rapidly as he does from sensory impression to thought.
We will return to this aspect of the poem later in the chapter, but should note now that as the poet turns his attention from the ravine to the mountain in stanza IV, the remoteness and indifference of the physical world is stressed: Meanwhile, cycles of natural creation and destruction are implicitly compared to the capacity for creation proper to the human imagination.
II The discourse surrounding the imagination in the Romantic period has been exhaustively studied for its dialogue with a number of aesthetic debates, and largely for its important bearing on the theory of the sublime. This places it, oppositionally, in close relation to the fragment, for the imagination is equally implicated in the double play of suggestion and resistance, presence and absence, that characterises the fragment.
For the fragment, as for the imagination, the linking function is really the occupation of a space between two things, neither of which it can fully identify with or share in, in the way that a bridge both passes over and asserts the distance between two sides of a river, bringing those sides into contact while leaving their separateness intact. Imagination, The Divine Vision.
This world of Imagination is the world of Eternity; it is the divine bosom into which we shall all go after the death of the Vegetated body. And for Wordsworth as well, the limitlessness of the imagination is empowering: The experience as a whole thus follows a redemptive trajectory: But to feel, if only for a moment, unbounded is a different matter entirely from the totalizing impulse so often invested in the Romantic imagination. Kant makes it clear that the imagination cannot have access to a whole: As the imagination offers a conceptual language for expressing an idealized totality, and is claimed as the faculty above all others that contains and synthesizes, the persistence of the fragmentary in Romanticism is an apparent affront to the coherence or full intelligibility of the Romantic theory of the imagination.
But like the sublime, this mode of presentation arguably presents the impossibility of presentation. Paul Hamilton, among others, has seized upon the aesthetics of the sublime as an exemplary theoretical expression of the wider dilemma facing the Romantic poet.
These circumstances are well known: To the ideal notion of the imaginative function as able to Romantic Idealism and the Interference of Sight penetrate and synthesize nature with the mind of man, we must admit the capacity of the imagination to obfuscate and mislead. The trajectory Hartman describes is itself not unlike the movement leading to the moment of the sublime, where incommensurability intervenes. For it is not the case that the imagination must win out over the eye, but rather, that the activity of the poetic imagination also rises out of a rupture, this time between the imagination and its supports in the visible world.
He paints in extraordinary geographic detail the features of that mountain valley, but neglects to mention that the poem is an expansion and translation of another: He turns this experience to good account, making the all-too-real decidedly, sublimely, unreal. The poet addresses features of the landscape in turn, rousing them to a collective address. By this logic, the poet must apprehend the mountain as blank before it can be made to speak: And yet, the poem ends with a searching question, addressed to the mountain: This premise is in keeping with the language of religious experience, and more pointedly, with a tradition of inspiration and conversion associated with the Alps.
But while he might make use of the language of mystical rapture, it is also the case that Shelley questions the object of his address, and emphasizes the inscrutability of natural phenomena. As a skeptical poet of the sublime, he entertains the possibility that imaginative visionariness, by which the obscure is made visible, may do little more than obscure the already obscure.
The structure of visibility, moreover, is implicated here, for as Derrida has suggestively remarked, the visible has an invisible inner framework, which functions as its other, its secret counterpart.
And yet, even to posit this is to demonstrate the interdependence, however incompatible, of mind and mountain. The capacity of the invisible not only to structure but haunt the visible must be seen to inform the debate about the status and function of the imagination, and this is clear in a variety of Romantic poems that interrogate—as do the alpine poems of Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Shelley—the response of the poet to the inscrutability of the physical world. Literary texts provide an inherently more imaginative forum for representing sight, and for advancing the ideology of vision that is associated paradoxically perhaps with Romantic poetry.
The next chapter explores a visual media—rather than place, or poetic idiom—where the visual is self-consciously staged, and dissolved, against a backdrop largely taken up by the spectacle of ruin, and concerned with exploring and exploiting the borders of vision. At the Diorama, the enticements of place, both geographical and historical, are mediated by means of art and its possible re constructions.
The views at the Diorama are again changed, and France and Switzerland are once more placed before our eyes without our encountering the nausea of crossing the Channel, the roguery of continental innkeepers, and all the other innumerable and indescribable miseries of foreign travel. Gothard, torn from their old foundations, are reposing quietly in the same vicinity.
All this is owing to the magic pencil of Messrs. All was enveloped in fog and in icy stillness. The fog gradually dispersed and was succeeded by beautiful sunlight. The fine Saxon arches and mouldering cloisters of this picture were greatly admired. This impressive depiction of a Gothic convent in ruins also exploited, to great effect, the space of the cloister as a point of mediation between the inside and the outside, and its state of physical decay with ruin clearly exacerbating the permeation of the inside by the outside as a visual anchor for the scenic transformations on display.
Because such scenes were still fashionably picturesque in the early nineteenth century, little critical attention has been paid to this perhaps obvious choice of subject. The variegated and visually indeterminate nature of much Gothic architecture, particularly but not always in a state of ruin, clearly lent itself to the special effects aimed at by the technological means of the Diorama. Moreover, there are thematic and psychoanalytic determinations attaching to the Diorama, in both means and matter, that make this subject choice peculiarly apt, particularly where its Gothic preoccupations understood also in a literary and theoretical sense raise questions of aesthetic representation.
Its oppositional mode of presentation involves elements of doubling and repetition, alongside a preoccupation with the uncanny grounds of illusion. The Diorama, as a revelatory visual technology that exploits the penetrable indeterminacy of Gothic interiority, apparently puts the visible clearly on display; but as this chapter will show, its presentation of in visibility reveals the hidden as caught up in the spectral presence of the dead.
Like the Making Visible reanimation scenarios enacted in the ruined spaces of Rome, the Diorama draws attention to the place of what has been buried and obliterated—by time, by history, and even by the force of a visual realism that triangulates the relationship between nature, art, and death.
Possibly the idea of the Diorama drew from an exhibition of diaphanoramas—transparent pictures—in Paris in Daguerre and his partner, Charles Bouton, exhibited a fresh set of pictures each year, which would open in London after a successful run in Paris. The terms of the patent were ambitious and precise: A complete show would take about Romanticism and Visuality Figure 6.
Diorama, Park Square, Regents Park: The range of subjects depicted was relatively narrow, generally of either landscapes or architectural interiors most shows consisted of one of each, one painted by Daguerre—usually the interior scene—and the other by Bouton. Altick suggests these shows functioned as a spectacular counterpart to the albums of engraved scenes that were popular at the end of the Regency period.
To a great extent, this is borne out by the pictures on display at the London Diorama in the s and s: Wandrille, and so on. Chief among these was the explosion of Mount Etna, which presented the volcano under three distinct aspects. According to the account in The Athenaeum: Day breaks, and the morning sun reveals the features of the landscape,—til at noon it is seen under the full blaze of meridian light.
The cosmorama, the pleorama, the myriorama to name only three —all in various ways sought to make the visible spectacular. His Eidophusikon in Leicester Square, which was especially popular in the s, consisted of a scene displayed on a small stage six by eight feet and accompanied by ingenious lighting and sound effects. The panorama was nevertheless an important stimulus to the development of the Diorama, and it is often supposed that the arrested movement Making Visible and static atmospheric conditions of panoramic representations contributed directly to the invention of the Diorama, although innovations to the panorama itself, such as the moving panorama, also went some way to compensate for the inherent stillness of the panoramic image.
The principal innovation and novelty of the panorama, discussed above, was that it presented a full degree view of its subject, on the circular interior walls of a purpose-built rotunda. It aimed to simulate as completely as possible—from the viewing platform—the experience of a given scene as though the viewer were on the very spot.
Both the Diorama and the panorama shared the impulse to create a complete illusion, but there are key differences between them. Topographical accuracy, so much the point of a panorama, was clearly, in the case of the Diorama, secondary to the creation of convincing atmospheric effects.
The Diorama aimed to provide an aesthetic rather than an educational experience, hence the shift of emphasis from completeness of representation to fullness of illusion Hyde, One might say that in the Diorama the intensity rather than the immensity of the illusion is stressed; and indeed, with the simulation of time-induced change, that space becomes uncannily temporal as well as—like Gothic ruins—temporary the subject of, and subjected to, disappearance.
But this is a point I shall return to below. To some extent, by so shamelessly mixing nature and art, Daguerre was mocking his own accomplishments, as well as confounding his audience. More important, however, this display of illusion raised the stakes of artistic propriety. In the case of the Diorama, this is clearly a function of its status as a hybrid of painting and theatre, or as a strange combination perhaps of tableau vivant and still life.
Some aspects of the Diorama, though apparently contrary in their tendencies, are indeed remarkably like the conventions of still-life painting in their effects. The perfect still life presupposes the absence of the subject, and in the motif of the memento mori, announces its death. The idea produced is that of a region—of a world—desolated; of living nature at an end; of the last day past and over.
But the achievement of the Diorama is to take us through the barrier of the perimeter wall, the barrier of the visible—darkly, perhaps, but also doubly. Effectively, two paintings of the very same scene were superimposed upon each other Altick, Two of the earliest double-effect Dioramas were seen and written about by Lady Morgan in On the one hand, Lady Morgan celebrates the Diorama as the epitome of perfection and excellence in creating illusion in visual art: The offences Lady Morgan recounts are primarily verbal, as though the impulse to running commentary presents an unwelcome textual supplement to the visual—involving not only a doubling but also a dissipation of focus.
In short, the dead. At the height of this segment, while the village sleeps peacefully, the moon sets and a storm approaches, building slowly to the unleashing of the avalanche. This is dramatized largely by sound effects, followed by total darkness and a pause—and then slowly by daybreak. The illusion is said to be so impressive in every detail that the mind is also restored to its initial Romanticism and Visuality Figure 6.
Resurrection and restitution are perhaps more strongly implied in this account, with its unambiguously religious context. With these examples of double-effect Dioramas in view, it is possible to revisit the relationship of the Diorama to the panorama, and to make a few further observations. I suggested above that the Diorama was characterised by intensity rather than immensity of illusion.
The panorama, by contrast, creates an illusion that is to be prolonged: By contrast, the Diorama suggests an uncanny relation to time, insofar as past, present, and future are not only controlled and replicated, but also repeated. In the Diorama, illusion is created and removed, and creation and removal are explicit features of the exhibition—are dramatised by the exhibition— rather than being merely its invisible precondition, and inevitable fate.
It could be said that while the panorama stages the visible, the Diorama, through the repetition of concealment and revelation, dramatises the invisible-within-the-visible, but with a curious effect: The charm of the Diorama draws not only from the artistic excellence of its illusion making capabilities contentious as that was , or from its apparent participation in the repetition compulsion in association with the death drive , but also from its ability to put the spectre into the spectacular.
IV Gothic subjects were already a favourite for the transparencies that were fashionable as window decorations in the period, before the advent of the Diorama. In general, religious architecture is a potent subject, capitalizing as it does on both sublime and picturesque effects. Even the dioramic enactment of Catholic midnight masses might, for an English audience, evoke the suspicion of Catholicism that is a central thematic in many Gothic novels. A playful sense of inadequacy affects the Mirror reviewer, who laments his incapacity to capture it whole: It is impossible to convey by words any adequate idea of the fascination and perfect illusion of this magical picture.
The scene itself is picturesque in the highest conceivable idea of architectural representation; far more so, indeed, from its dilapidated state. Second, there is the overall excellence Making Visible Figure 6. There are, once again, family traditions of death and burial associated with the chapel, and more particularly, a legend with an intriguing supernatural dimension. In fact, this illusion was created by the rays of the setting sun, passing through the windows—Diorama-like—when the sun was low in the sky.
This group of Dioramas that were on display from to , with their use of ruined Gothic structures, evoke the more literary and thematic aspects of the Gothic revival in the eighteenth century, and in this are somewhat distinct from the dioramic representations of intact Gothic cathedrals such as Chartres and Canterbury — A number of features of Gothic are strikingly relevant to the Diorama as a technology.
First of all, Gothic texts rely heavily on contrast, on stark oppositions including juxtaposed states of extremity. BayerBerenbaum is not thinking of visual technology or even of the visual in her account, but what she says about the Gothic and technology in general is also apposite here. This is as much the reason why structures such as Holyrood Chapel made such compelling subjects for the Diorama, as it is that such structures have thematic value often of a psychological nature in literature.
The point of this, in these examples, is an explicitly spiritual experience, but it clearly implicates the visual, or the optical, in its experiments with proportion, diminution, and so on. In this way, the Gothic cathedral may be seen as not just a subject but also a prototype for the Diorama: In the popularity of Gothic architecture, however, additional factors come into play that link the oppositional mode of presentation in the Diorama to key features of the Gothic. Repetition plays a dual role here—spatial, in the case of Gothic architecture, but temporal in the Diorama—though arguably in both cases driven by the urge to represent coherently the plight, and perception, of fragmented subjectivity.
As Jerrold Hogle has argued, an element of fakery has always attended the Gothic, with its explicitly counterfeit nature. In the case of the panorama, Comment suggests that one of these is the rise of a collective imagination that is readily colonised by propaganda and commerce Comment, Visual realism is, as Hegel teaches us, but a symptom of the loss of reality, and moreover realism in which we can include the strategies of illusionism and melancholy can be seen to share certain features: Its uncanny doubleness, its relationship to death, its element of phantasmagoric spectrality, and the connections between these and the impulses of Gothic: The deceptions of the visible were consciously manipulated at the Diorama, as they were at a host of other visual entertainments in Georgian England, but clearly its engagement with the force of the unseen was more subtle than its denigrators allowed.
The visual is revealed as made, as manufactured; and this observation, if one may put it that way, is present in the engagement with the visual apparent in other cultural spheres. Nevertheless, Coleridge did make serious attempts to write plays, largely in response to the state of English drama in the s, which was perceived by Coleridge and by other public commentators, such as Charles Lamb and William Hazlitt, to be in need of resuscitation.
In Remorse, a highly successful revision of his play Osorio, was performed to considerable acclaim, and ran for nearly three weeks at Drury Lane. Thomas Barnes, writing in the Examiner, exclaimed: We never saw more interest excited in a theatre than was expressed at the sorcery scene in the third act. Coleridge was no stranger to contradictory impulses, of course, nor to revisions of both his radical past and his past work often at the same time: An analysis of the political implications of these revisions is thus central to most discussions of the play—indeed this is the very thing the criticism most discusses.
Coleridge distinguished, as noted above, between imaginatively Romanticism and Visuality created dramatic illusion and mere stage illusion, produced by stimulating and tricking the senses—a distinction that, taken to a limit, suggests that the most thorough dramatic illusion must be a function of reading rather than performance. Several threads of the plot converge here, but the scene was felt by contemporary viewers to be, on its own terms, the most astonishing of the play.
Certainly it was the most visually dramatic. All of these details are emphasized by the reviews, as in the Barnes example cited above. But there is more: Whether or not the detailed contents of the painting were visible to the audience is unclear certainly they could be readily inferred , and it seems no information survives about the actual painting that was used in performance.
When we view a painting, Coleridge suggests, we know we are looking at a picture and not at something real. What happens, then, when a painting becomes part of stage presentation, when pictures, as pictures, become part of the fabric of dramatic illusion? Arguably, the insertion of the painting disrupts illusion by foregrounding, among other things, the act of seeing, as well as of creating, illusion.
Who is this Schiller? This Convulsor of the Heart? Why have we ever called Milton sublime? But by , of course, Coleridge had written a play of his own: But much of it is external too, played out, so to speak, in the comparatively open space of the theatre. Both treat popular themes original to neither. Thus marginalized, Karl lives his outlaw status to the full as the captain of a band of robbers. In the manner of Robin Hood, he embraces lawlessness as a means of exposing the blind slavery of law to corrupt forms of power; in effect, he breaks the letter of the law in order to uphold its spirit, which is of course to enforce genuine justice.
Franz, meanwhile has all but murdered their father, who has been locked away to starve in a tower coincidentally near to where the robber band sets up camp. Both plays present, in their use of visual forms on stage, and in their deployment of the rhetoric of vision, the veiled and illusionary nature of the very truths they are driven by. In effect, the viewer of these plays is presented with the illusion of a process of disillusionment that remains illusionary through and through.
The Robbers opens with Franz von Moor skillfully misleading his father about the activities of his eldest son, Karl. In a manner reminiscent of the Gloucester subplot in King Lear, Franz does this with the help of a letter he himself has written, full of counterfeit allegations, which he successfully dissuades his father from perusing with his own eyes, so distressing are its contents.
Already the truth of the situation is disguised as visible, and the Count is, not inappropriately, compelled to conclude that his son must therefore remain out of his sight: This compound deception is turned, by Karl, into a moment of revelation: This eagerness suggests to Franz, however, the best means of tormenting her: The disturbing effects of superimposing one image upon another are indeed felt by Amalia, but in a later context. This confusion over the real and the image, and over the life of the image apart from any actual reference to the real, is of course complicated by the adoption of disguise by a character already leading a double life.
He remembers having observed his expression in an unguarded moment: Their reunion is ultimately a virtual one, unable to withstand exposure to the real. All too often in The Robbers, truth must be masked by illusion, and some element of illusion appears necessary or essential to its representation.
Moreover, revelation, when it comes, has an uncanny way of turning up in a mirror. This staging of the visual implicitly questions the adequacy of both seeing and appearing for the settling of ontological problems, since seeing must be supplemented in various ways. Any offence given to the eye is not to be got rid of by explanation.
Fancy cannot be embodied any more than a simile can be painted; and it is as idle to attempt it as to personate Wall or Moonshine. An imitation is a living and legitimate form of representation, whereas a copy is a dead and deceitful one. Coleridge brings this distinction to bear on dramatic representation: But is this what makes drama a special example of illusionary representation? The visual is on display throughout Remorse, though I would like to approach it by going back to the sorcery scene, which not only includes supplementary images but suggests something of how they are to be perceived.
The sorcery scene involves the presentation of yet another image, a less visually dramatic but equally important one. As the audience soon discovers, however, Ordonio had been the secret witness to this scene, and has, by foul means, managed to acquire the portrait for himself. A picture that conceals a deception is to be supplanted by one that reveals it: Throughout the play, there are many other situations in which characters have been deceived by what their eyes have seen, and yet others in which they are undeceived by means of images.
When Alvar returns from his six-year absence, he returns not only from the sea but from the past and the dead, and the play opens with his arrival on shore near the family castle, equipped with his array of disguises, and of course in possession of the painting depicting the unsuccessful assassination attempt.
The fact that this is to be accomplished by means of conjuring acts, and indeed with visual aids, not only is made plain by his disguise and his language, but is implicit also in his capacities as a painter, for he is the source, tellingly, of that all-important painting.
A passage that Coleridge dropped into a footnote in the published text pursues this idea. These are lines that he excised from the play, but published with the text, he claimed, simply to please himself. This is revealed in his meeting with Alhadra, the widow of Isidore. Alvar declares himself a longtime soldier in the battle against oppression, and says to her: Of this be certain: This pointed emphasis on the visual and the image, not only in a play, but in a play text, is striking.
In the context of the theatre, the effect is clearly one not only of mirroring or doubling, but also, paradoxically, of obscuring—which suggests a resistance to certain aspects of the dramatic encounter, resistance to being taken in by the eyes, and by the present. Illusion is, in any case, always there to be disrupted if not policed: The revelation of truth is followed by the imprisonment of the innocent, unless we read the arrest as only a more dramatic form of the necessary and futile attempt of the present to prevent the return of the past and its repressed contents.
The painting can be seen to force a confrontation that penetrates illusion and conveys a knowledge that forces itself through—the contents of which could not otherwise be directly encountered in the present. On the problem of stasis, Meisel makes recourse to A. Romantic drama, on the other hand, attempts to represent both the base and the action it supports, using more painterly techniques: This reading aligns the play more closely with the closet dramas of the age than its successful run on stage would suggest.
Schiller also, in his prefatory remarks to The Robbers, expressed anxiety over the actual performance, or literal presentation, of his play, which he felt stood a better chance of being understood by being read. So what do we make of plays that play on play, to such an extent that they are driven by the circulation of images and the problematic perception as well as presentation of the real? We might then consider this as virtual theatre, a term used by Evlyn Gould with respect to nineteenth-century France, but one that is singularly appropriate here: The urge to understand and even reform the past and with it the present, or things as they are was as powerful to Coleridge as to many of his contemporaries, and for strong personal as well as political and philosophical reasons.
What Coleridge makes visible in Remorse, then, is in large part the act of making visible itself. The re-creation of sight—its limits, its constructedness—was a source of entertainment and subtle interest at the Diorama, and it was also central to the phantasmagoria or ghost shows, to which we turn in the next chapter. At the phantasmagoria, looking had—quite literally—terrifying features, apparent most pointedly in the popularity of the Medusa head as an element of the spectacle.
The magic lantern, in its development in the phantasmagoria shows of the revolutionary period, made excellent use of the severed head among other disembodied forms— Vision and Revulsion and indeed, disembodying, broadly put, was a central feature of the ghost shows. But there was one head in particular, that of the Medusa, whose display captured the horror of the guillotine and the disturbing power of the phantasmagoria, while securing a prominent place in revolutionary symbology.
This chapter considers the appearance of the Medusa head in the context of French revolutionary spectacle, namely as a feature of the phantasmagoria shows that played so effectively on the ambiguous place of the spectator in relation to the invisible. It also considers the appearance of the Medusa in a literary context.
19th Century Romantic Aesthetics
Ekphrasis itself, as the verbal representation of visual representation, presents a clear instance of dissonance between modes of representation, and of incongruity between the visible and the invisible: What has always been overlooked, curiously, is what she might tell us about looking itself, about the fear of sight, with all its generative anxiety—as well as its powerful relationship to desire.
I The myth of Medusa centers on a particularly frontal form of visual assault: Yet from its inception, the story is beset by ambiguous details, directed by diversionary tactics. Properly speaking it is both: Perseus, son of Zeus, was given the unenviable job of ridding the earth of this unbearably strange creature, and the tyranny she unleashed. This he accomplished, and gave the severed head of Medusa back to Minerva, who henceforth carried it on her shield, or on the breastplate of her armour. As legend goes, Perseus succeeds in his task with the help of certain aids, gifts from the gods: When Perseus comes upon Medusa, she is, in fact, asleep: Medusa, painted on a leather jousting shield, c.
Vision and Revulsion any chances, however, Perseus turns his back upon her—rather like users of the Claude glass upon their landscape—and uses her image mirrored in his shield to take his deadly aim. And yet, the look is, and becomes, everything and everywhere. The head is borne like a shield before Perseus, and as a shield thereafter, but where the actual head ends and the image of the head begins is noticeably unclear. The look of the Medusa is of course unrepresentable—it cannot be seen—even while the image on the shield, or as a shield, is convex and round, indeed rather like an eye.
Moreover, the event of the decapitation would appear to be equally unrepresentable, for the painting elides, Marin points out, two distinct moments: There is clearly a paradoxical logic at work here, by which an appearance signals or is at the same time a disappearance. This corresponds to the paradox of the Medusa herself as both erection and castration, presence and absence, the look and its blinding consequence.
II The Medusa seems not to have been a popular subject for painters during the Romantic period, when there are very few visual representations of her outside of political caricature. However there was one place where the terrifying sight of the Medusa could be had, repeatedly, and that is at the phantasmagoria shows in Paris and London. Magic lanterns were an early portable form of slide projector, which used an arrangement of a lamp and lenses to project images painted on glass slides. It thus concealed the mechanism of illusion creation from view.
Some slides included animated elements, such as skulls with wings that could move in an uncanny manner. This was especially the case with the head of Medusa, whose eyes, and serpent hair, could be made to move Figure 8. Medusa Head, hand-painted animated lantern slide. A thin transparent screen had, unknown to the spectators, been let down after the disappearance of the light, Vision and Revulsion Figure 8. Paul de Philipsthal, Showbill. In this manner, the head of Dr. Other innovations contributed to a more frightening atmosphere: Reason had only to appear, supported by will, and darkness disappeared.