Victorian Glassworlds: Glass Culture and the Imagination 1830-1880

Hardcover | June 1, 2008

byIsobel Armstrong

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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, andphilosophy, 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 wasmade 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 factoryfurnace, 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. Butthey 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 intothe 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 artisanswho 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, andtheir 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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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, andphilosophy, it will transform our understanding o...

Isobel Armstrong is formerly of Birkbeck College at the University of London.

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:400 pages, 9.69 × 6.73 × 1.18 inPublished:June 1, 2008Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199205205

ISBN - 13:9780199205202

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Table of Contents

Introduction: The Poetics of TransparencyPART 1 FACETS OF GLASS CULTURE: MAKING AND BREAKING GLASS1. Factory Tourism: Morphology of the 'Visit to a Glass Factory'2. Robert Lucas Chance, Modern Glass Manufacturer: fractures in the glass factory3. Riot and the Grammar of Window-Breaking: the Chances, Wellington, Chartism4. The Glassmakers' Eloquence: a Trade Union Journal, the Royal Commission, 1868ConclusionPART 11 PERSPECTIVES OF THE GLASS PANEL: WINDOWS, MIRRORS, WALLS5. Reflections, Translucency, Aura, Trace6. Glassing London: Building Glass Culture, Real and Imagined7. Politics of the Conservatory: Glasshouses, Republican and Populist8. Mythmaking: Cinderella and her Glass Slipper at the Crystal Palace9. Glass under Glass: Glassworld FictionsPART 111 LENS-MADE IMAGES: OPTICAL TOYS AND PHILOSOPHICAL INSTRUMENTS10. The Lens, Light, and the Virtual World11. Dissolving and Resolving Views: from Magic Lantern to Telescope12. Microscopic Space13. Crystalphiles, Anamorphobics, and Stereoscopic Volume14. Coda on Time: Fixing the Moving Image and Mobilising the Fixed Image - Memory, Repetition, and Working ThroughConclusion: the End of Glass Culture - from Nineteenth-Century Modernity to Modernism