Visual Culture, Modernity and the Representation of Urban Space
Drawing together scholars from across the arts, humanities and social sciences, the collection addresses two emerging themes in Irish studies: the intersection of the city with cultural politics, and the role of the visual in projecting Irish cultural identity. The essays not only ask new questions of existing cultural histories but also identify previously unexplored visual representations of the city. The book’s interdisciplinary approach seeks to broaden established understandings of visual culture within Irish studies to incorporate not only visual artefacts, but also textual descriptions and ocular experiences that contribute to how we come to look at, see and experience both Dublin and Ireland.
Part II Modernity, Cinema, Cityscape
Sean Mannion Celtic Arc Light: The Electric Light in Early Twentieth-Century Dublin The electric light defined the visual culture of the early twentieth-century metropolis. As historians such as Wolfgang Schivelbusch have documented, this technology did so as it entered everyday urban life in the 1880s due to both its unprecedented separation of light from fire and its incredible brightness.1 The electric light, as many contemporaries believed, had lib- erated humanity from reliance on natural light, further intensifying the burgeoning urban nightlife already initiated by gaslight.2 As the historian David E. Nye has chronicled, at this moment the metropolis transformed into an ‘electric cityscape,’ a ‘universe of signs’ overwhelming spectators with their ‘sheer size and magnificence.’3 The pulsating energy of such spectacle contributed to the fact that, as the historian Joachim Schlör points out, by 1900 ‘[m]ore than ever before, light was a big city’s mark of modernity, and its absence was felt as a lack.’4 The electric light thus featured cen- trally in international exhibitions and amusement parks throughout the 1 W. Schivelbusch, Disenchanted Night: The Industrialization of Light in the Nineteenth Century, trans. Angela Davies (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995; first published 1983), p. 23. 2 C. Marvin, When Old Technologies Were New: Thinking About Electric Communication in the Late Nineteenth Century (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), p. 165; J. Schlör, Nights in the Big City: Paris, Berlin, London, 1840–1930, trans. Pierre Gottfried Imhof and Dafydd Rees Roberts (London: Reaktion Books, 1998;...
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