Ognyan Kovachev

With a Well-equipped Eye: Visual Techniques and Narrative Optics in the 18th and 19th Centuries



This paper offers a parallel discussion of various visual techniques and devices, invented during the XVIII – XIX centuries, and the simultaneously changing narrative approaches and modes of literary representation. Special attention is paid to such technical constructions and attractions for the reproduction of images as photography, panorama and diorama, laterna magica, camera obscura and camera lucida. The analogies between them and the new ways of telling and showing are analyzed in works of Ch. R. Maturin, Balzac, Dickens, Flaubert, Conrad etc. They display the variety of pre-cinematic techniques in the XIX century novel and indicate how intensive has become at that time the interplay between “pictura” and “poiesis”. Specific feature of the revival of the visual in the wake of Modernity is that it is as crucial to the aesthetic as to the every-day perception of the world. Remarkable climax of this convergence of the look is the invention of cinema and the stress that both literary and cinematic authors put on the ability of “seeing” the work of art.


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