Time Travel and Virtual Tourism in the Age of John Martin

in The Earth on Show

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print January 2008 | ISBN: 9780226616681
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226616704 | DOI:
Time Travel and Virtual Tourism in the Age of John Martin

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Travel writing and topographical poetry met the public demand for contact with distant places. This literature cradled the seeds of Victorian virtual tourism. Poems such as Thomson's Seasons invoked “the Muse” to display scenes for the mind's eye to drink in. Such imaginary views often assumed theatrical trappings, reflecting a longstanding conceit that the visible world was a theatre, a backdrop for the drama of history. To understand how the mind's eye was expected to view these imaginary scenes, we first turn to the theatre itself, and to its direct descendants, the panorama and diorama, which is where virtual tourism began in earnest. This chapter begins by introducing these sites and their links with contemporary geological display, for which the art of John Martin became a shared reference point. It then examines how poetic texts worked alongside the displays to produce the illusion of verisimilitude: their use of Byron—the most popular poet of the period—serves to focus this discussion. Finally, with the specific case of apocalyptic spectacle and its implications of time travel, the chapter returns to the geological imagination and its complex relation between fact and fancy.

Keywords: travel writing; topographical poetry; panorama; diorama; geological display; poetic texts; Byron

Chapter.  19653 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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