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The enigma of visibility : theories of visual perception in the early poetry of William Morris and in the work of Ruskin and the pre-Raphaelites

The enigma of visibility : theories of visual perception in the early poetry of William Morris and in the work of Ruskin and the pre-Raphaelites
The enigma of visibility : theories of visual perception in the early poetry of William Morris and in the work of Ruskin and the pre-Raphaelites

This thesis charts the status and function of Optical Agency in William Morris's The Defence of Guenevere and Other Poems, and in the work of John Ruskin and the Pre-Raphaelites. It reads Morris's first volume in relationship to Ruskin's complex optical theories. It claims that the importance of optical discourse, particularly photography, to the sister arts analogy in the mid 19th Century has been both undervalued and misrepresented. It shows how diverse forms of optical mediation do not constitute neutral practices, but culturally and historically specific ones that are appropriated in the texts of Ruskin and Morris. Chapter one sets into play the interrelationships between texts by Wordsworth, Millais, de Quincey, Brewster, and Patmore in order to dramatise a paradigm for larger optical issues. At the same time it demonstrates how two optical practices, monoscopy and stereoscopy, can be understood to be appropriated to the discourses of literature and painting. Chapters two and three read closely Ruskin's Modern Painters and The Stones of Venice and Morris's Shadows of Amiens in order to chart a prevalent range of optical issues. Ruskin's theory of the Noble Grotesque is read as a mode of visual perception which celebrates a process of transcendence before the eye, as the perpetually aberrant depth of field. Perceptual aberration is subsequently located as a central optical issue in both Ruskin and Morris. An analogous account of the Ruskinian grotesque is examined in Morris's `Rapunzel'. Optical complexities present in the rhetoric of contemporary reviews of The Defence of Guenevere are taken in Chapter four as exemplary of larger problems inherent in the disruptive optical discourse. Chapter six reads the volume in relationship to Ruskin's account `Of Modern Landscape' in Modern Painters 3 dramatising the conflicting biases of optical mediation in the sister arts analogy.

University of Southampton
Smith, Lindsay Jane
Smith, Lindsay Jane

Smith, Lindsay Jane (1989) The enigma of visibility : theories of visual perception in the early poetry of William Morris and in the work of Ruskin and the pre-Raphaelites. University of Southampton, Doctoral Thesis.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

This thesis charts the status and function of Optical Agency in William Morris's The Defence of Guenevere and Other Poems, and in the work of John Ruskin and the Pre-Raphaelites. It reads Morris's first volume in relationship to Ruskin's complex optical theories. It claims that the importance of optical discourse, particularly photography, to the sister arts analogy in the mid 19th Century has been both undervalued and misrepresented. It shows how diverse forms of optical mediation do not constitute neutral practices, but culturally and historically specific ones that are appropriated in the texts of Ruskin and Morris. Chapter one sets into play the interrelationships between texts by Wordsworth, Millais, de Quincey, Brewster, and Patmore in order to dramatise a paradigm for larger optical issues. At the same time it demonstrates how two optical practices, monoscopy and stereoscopy, can be understood to be appropriated to the discourses of literature and painting. Chapters two and three read closely Ruskin's Modern Painters and The Stones of Venice and Morris's Shadows of Amiens in order to chart a prevalent range of optical issues. Ruskin's theory of the Noble Grotesque is read as a mode of visual perception which celebrates a process of transcendence before the eye, as the perpetually aberrant depth of field. Perceptual aberration is subsequently located as a central optical issue in both Ruskin and Morris. An analogous account of the Ruskinian grotesque is examined in Morris's `Rapunzel'. Optical complexities present in the rhetoric of contemporary reviews of The Defence of Guenevere are taken in Chapter four as exemplary of larger problems inherent in the disruptive optical discourse. Chapter six reads the volume in relationship to Ruskin's account `Of Modern Landscape' in Modern Painters 3 dramatising the conflicting biases of optical mediation in the sister arts analogy.

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Published date: 1989

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Local EPrints ID: 461170
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/461170
PURE UUID: 12c53b5d-aba2-4365-a743-ac9791006105

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Date deposited: 04 Jul 2022 18:37
Last modified: 04 Jul 2022 19:48

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Author: Lindsay Jane Smith

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