The Victorian Eye: The Physiology, Sociology, and Spatiality of Vision, 1800–1900

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:
The Victorian Eye: The Physiology, Sociology, and Spatiality of Vision, 1800–1900

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  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)


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This chapter provides a historical overview of three dimensions of the history of nineteenth-century perception. First, it examines the development of ophthalmology and the attempt to calculate and normalize perception as well as schemes to protect and nurture vision in institutions like schools. Second, it explores some very concrete connections between liberal subjectivity and visual practices like attention to detail, recognition, and reading. Finally, it looks at how these practices produced social cohesion among the respectable and facilitated distinction from, and exclusion of, those individuals incapable of visual control. It argues that such perceptual differentiation was inseparable from the built form of the city: while the suburb, the library, and the boulevard were sites where visual command could be exercised, the slum, the court, and the alley were spaces where this command crumbled and gave way to something more tactile and intimate.

Keywords: ophthalmology; perception; liberal subjectivity; visual practices; social cohesion; visual control

Chapter.  14731 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)

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