In many respects, the Victorian age, with its numerous social, cultural, technological and intellectual innovations, set the tone for our modern society. Like few others, this era has produced a cornucopia of diverse material, both physical and intangible, which lends itself well to a closer inspection in order to get in touch with the age that so lastingly shaped and impacted our understanding of society and culture as we know it today. In this seminar, we will approach the Victorian age from the perspective of visuality, tracing how the discourses surrounding this field – covering areas from optics and optometry, to intellectual debates centring around visual perception and aesthetic seeing – have changed during that time. We will examine how they manifested in the new visual media that emerged during the 19th century (photography, cinematography, etc.), how they have shaped literature and the pictorial arts, how they have influenced the ways in which people perceived and assessed their immediate surroundings, and how they have impacted our cultural understanding of visuality and its significance in our daily lives, culminating eventually in the much-referenced ‘visual turn’. Using a variety of materials, ranging from literary texts to newspaper columns, photographs, paintings, and Victorian advertisements, we will trace how this discourse evolved over time, and how it laid the basis for our modern approach to visuality today.
Required Reading:Charles Dickens. Bleak House. Ed. Stephen Gill. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2008. (Oxford World’s Classics Edition) (ISBN: 978-0199536313)Oscar Wilde. The Picture of Dorian Gray. Ed. Joseph Bristow. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2008. (Oxford World’s Classics Edition) (ISBN: 9780199535989) E.M. Forster. A Room with a View. London: Penguin Books, 2011 (Penguin Essentials, Vol. 7) (ISBN: 978-0241951484).
Requirements: active participation in weekly seminar sessions; team-PPT-presentation; term paper (10 pp.).