Seeing Things: Virtual Aesthetics in Victorian Culture


ACLS Fellowship Program


English and Communication Arts


"Seeing Things: Virtual Aesthetics in Victorian Culture" is a cultural history of virtual aesthetics, or the aesthetics of visual or perceptual encounters with things that are not really there. Between 1830 and 1900, “seeing things” was redefined as an enlightened mode of spectatorship and paradigmatic media aesthetic of western modernity. The concept of virtual images, or technologically mediated images that are visually perceptible but immaterial, also offered a framework for novelists seeking to describe the effects of reading on the mind. By tracing the development of virtual aesthetics through Victorian literature and media, "Seeing Things" rescues a vital period of visual, technological, and literary culture from its current status as a footnote to the history of film.