Introduction: Light, Vision, and Power

in The Victorian Eye

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print November 2008 | ISBN: 9780226640761
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226640785 | DOI:
Introduction: Light, Vision, and Power

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  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)


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This is a book about light, vision, and power in nineteenth-century Britain. It argues that the ways in which streets, houses, and institutions were lit, and the ways in which people saw within them, have a political history. The history of vision and power over the past couple of European centuries is invariably written as a history of either discipline or spectacle, or some combination of both. The book rejects such an approach. Instead, it argues that the nineteenth-century history of light and vision is best analyzed as part of the history of freedom, in its peculiarly and specifically British form. This introductory chapter discusses the following: the panopticon and the flâneur; the fundamental limitations to the development of illumination; liberalism; building and governing a technological state; and governing through technology. An overview of the subsequent chapters is also presented.

Keywords: nineteenth century; freedom; panopticon; flâneur; illumination; liberalism; technology

Chapter.  8616 words. 

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)

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