Victorian Glassworlds by Isobel Armstrong
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Victorian Glassworlds
By Isobel Armstrong

Victorian Glassworlds

Glass Culture and the Imagination 1830-1880

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Format: Hardback

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Victorian Glassworlds by Isobel Armstrong

Book Awards

  • Shortlisted for British Society for Literature and Science Book Prize 2008.

Book Description

Isobel Armstrong's startlingly original and beautifully illustrated book tells the stories that spring from the mass-production of glass in nineteenth-century England. Moving across technology, industry, local history, architecture, literature, print culture, the visual arts, optics, and philosophy, it will transform our understanding of the Victorian period. The mass production of glass in the nineteenth century transformed an ancient material into a modern one, at the same time transforming the environment and the nineteenth-century imagination. It created a new glass culture hitherto inconceivable. Glass culture constituted Victorian modernity. It was made from infinite variations of the prefabricated glass panel, and the lens. The mirror and the window became its formative elements, both the texts and constituents of glass culture. The glassworlds of the century are heterogeneous. They manifest themselves in the technologies of the factory furnace, in the myths of Cinderella and her glass slipper circulated in print media, in the ideologies of the conservatory as building type, in the fantasia of the shopfront, in the production of chandeliers, in the Crystal Palace, and the lens-made images of the magic lantern and microscope. But they were nevertheless governed by two inescapable conditions. First, to look through glass was to look through the residues of the breath of an unknown artisan, because glass was mass produced by incorporating glassblowing into the division of labour. Second, literally a new medium, glass brought the ambiguity of transparency and the problems of mediation into the everyday. It intervened between seer and seen, incorporating a modern philosophical problem into bodily experience. Thus for poets and novelists glass took on material and ontological, political, and aesthetic meanings. Reading glass forwards into Bauhaus modernism, Walter Benjamin overlooked an early phase of glass culture where the languages of glass are different. The book charts this phase in three parts. Factory archives, trade union records, and periodicals document the individual manufacturers and artisans who founded glass culture, the industrial tourists who described it, and the systematic politics of window-breaking. Part Two, culminating in glass under glass at the Crystal Palace, reads the glassing of the environment, including the mirror, the window, and controversy round the conservatory, and their inscription in poems and novels. Part Three explores the lens, from optical toys to 'philosophical' instruments as the telescope and microscope were known. A meditation on its history and phenomenology, Victorian Glassworlds is a poetics of glass for nineteenth-century modernity.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780199205202
ISBN-10: 0199205205
Format: Hardback
(255mm x 180mm x 30mm)
Pages: 472
Imprint: Oxford University Press
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publish Date: 24-Apr-2008
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Books By Author Isobel Armstrong

Novel Politics by Isobel Armstrong Novel Politics, Hardback (January 2017)

Novel Politics aims to change the current consensus of thinking about the nineteenth-century novel, which assumes that its default position is conservative and hegemonic. Isobel Armstrong creates a poetics of the novel that opens up its radical aspects, and treats the novel as a lived interrogation, experimental, and a source of social questioning.

New Feminist Discourses by Isobel Armstrong New Feminist Discourses, Paperback (March 2014)

This collection of new feminist essays represents the work of young critics researching and teaching in British universities. Aiming to set the agenda for feminist criticism in the nineties, the essays debate themes crucial to the development of feminist thought.

Radical Aesthetic by Isobel Armstrong Radical Aesthetic, Paperback (September 2000)

Provides a severe critique of the contemporary anti-aesthetic movement. Points to the democratic and radical potential of the aesthetic. Forges an alternative aesthetic discourse. Draws upon a wide range of theorists and philosophers, and uses a variety of literary and artistic examples to reinforce the argument.

» View all books by Isobel Armstrong


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