Kinopsis: Astronomy, Photography, and Pre-Cinema in the Nineteenth Century


ACLS Fellowship Program


French and Italian


Part of a three-volume study of “kinopsis”—the interrelation of vision and motion in modernity—this project reestablishes nineteenth-century astronomy and cosmology as the common foundation for science-driven secular education, post-Napoleonic popular culture, and the development of photography (Herschel and Arago) and cinema (Flammarion and Janssen). Observers and theoreticians of the universe, astronomers were also bricoleurs in optical instruments, 3-D visual thinkers, democratizers of science, and active in national and international politics. This study links scientific and popular astronomy to broad nineteenth-century kinoptic concerns, whether philosophical (Kant, Hegel, Comte, and Peirce), literary (Poe, Melville, Hugo, Verne, Dickinson, Mallarmé, and Hardy), political (Nat Turner, Arago, and Blanqui), photographic (Talbot, Daguerre, Nadar, Nasmyth, Draper, Cannon, and Holmes Sr.), visual (Töpffer, Grandville, and Redon), or mass cultural. Deriving new concepts from current vision science research, especially on motion and depth, the project shows kinopsis to be integral to the cosmopolitical culture of transatlantic modernity.