• The Evolution of Artificial Illumination in Nineteenth Century Literature: Light, Dark, and the Spaces in Between

      Richard Leahy; University of Chester (University of Chester, 2016-03-04)
      This thesis concentrates on the role of artificial light in the society, culture, and literature of the nineteenth century. Technologies of illumination in this period had a great effect on how society operated and how people experienced space and reality. These effects will be studied through reference to contemporary sources, historical analysis, and literary analysis. Each chapter uses a distinct theoretical viewpoint, and maintains a focus on a particular author (where possible). In the first chapter, the role of firelight in the works of Elizabeth Gaskell is examined, using Gaston Bachelard’s ideas on fire and psychology. The second chapter focuses on the role of candlelight in the works of Wilkie Collins, using Jacques Lacan’s theories on the Gaze. Due to the density of metaphoric references to gaslight in his fiction, Émile Zola’s work is the focus of the third chapter, while Jean Baudrillard’s theories on the nature of modern reality inform the theoretical analysis. The fourth and final chapter examines electric light’s rise to prominence and the rapidly changing attitudes towards it. It was impossible to limit this chapter’s study to only one author, so instead attention is paid to how electric light transitions from a fantastical technology to something real; this is done through a close examination of the early Science Fiction of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne, before the study moves to examine the realism of E.M. Forster and Edith Wharton. The theoretical background of this chapter is informed by a combination of previously covered theory, with attention also paid to posthumanism. The thesis identifies a number of trends and developments in the relationship between light and literature. It notes how artificial light created a space symbolically independent of light and dark, as well as elaborating on each light source’s individual symbolism. It also documents the relationship between artificial light and the transition of society and culture into modernity; it outlines the development, and cultural acceptance, of the notion of a technologically connected society and consumerism. Perhaps most importantly, this study identifies a psychological connection between literature, light, and the individual, and examines the representation of such a concept in the symbolism and metaphor of artificial light.
    • The Realisation of Electric Light in the Early Twentieth Century

      Richard Leahy; University of Chester (De Gruyter, 2015-10-01)
      Perceptions of electric light in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century witnessed a rapid turnaround of popular opinion on the light source; following its widespread adoption from the 1880s, it was at first met with derision, before perceptions shifted around the fin-de-siècle period, and it eventually grew into the light source that would come to define twentieth century. It evolved from something that was perceived as a symbol of the modern - it was a fantastical presence in the literature of Jules Verne many years before its realisation for example - to something that solidified a sense of modern life. Electricity, Alex Goody writes, 'transformed Victorian Culture', suggesting that "it was electric light that epitomised this transforming power […] the coming of electric light is a transformation of culture at a fundamental level; it marks the coming of what Marshall McLuhan, in Understanding Media, calls 'the electric age' (Goody 2011: 7) Electric light was both symbol and catalyst of the late nineteenth-century emergence of the truly modern world of capitalism and mass-society. McLuhan claims that this early emergence of the electric age had a distinct cultural and psychological impact on the way people thought of modernity: "electric light is pure information […] a medium without a message," further suggesting that its light "has no content, and in this purity it ushers in a modern world where instant communication connects us in a web of interaction"(McLuhan 2001: 8). McLuhan's analysis of the early electric age suggests a continuation of the burgeoning qualities and perceptions of the processes of gaslight - the invention of a networked system of light took the power of lighting away from an individual; people no longer felt as intimate a connection with the light they inhabited as they did in fire or candlelight.