Technologies of Illumination, 1870–1910

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:
Technologies of Illumination, 1870–1910

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  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)


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This chapter traces some of the tangled ways in which illumination and visual practice coevolved while suggesting critical points of connection between illumination technology and liberal subjectivity. It begins by outlining the various new forms of illumination technology that emerged and spread during this period, before considering how manufactured light was used and experienced. It examines three perceptual capacities that were particularly valued: the ability to distinguish colors, the ability to see at a distance, and the ability to distinguish detail. Following this, it looks at certain illumination arrangements designed to produce specific visual effects: attention in the factory, comfortable reading in the library, and tasteful decoration in the home. Finally, it examines the medical, sanitary, sensory, and bodily dimensions of various illuminants, notably their impact on the eyes, their impingement on other sensory systems, and their broader environmental effects.

Keywords: visual practice; illumination technology; liberal subjectivity; visual effects; illuminants

Chapter.  14892 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)

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