Date of Award

Fall 12-2016

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

Committee Chair

Dr. Eric Tribunella

Committee Chair Department

English

Committee Member 2

Dr. Monika Gehlawat

Committee Member 2 Department

English

Committee Member 3

Dr. Phillip Gentile

Committee Member 3 Department

Mass Communication and Journalism

Committee Member 4

Dr. Nicolle Jordan

Committee Member 4 Department

English

Committee Member 5

Dr. Alexandra Valint

Committee Member 5 Department

English

Abstract

In the broadest sense, this project is about nineteenth-century narrative texts and optical toys, or those devices that were originally created to demonstrate scientific knowledge related to vision but that would also become popular for home and public consumption. I argue that nineteenth-century British writers borrowed and adapted the visual effects of such toys, making fiction as participatory as the toys themselves in the development of image culture and the viewing practices that would become necessary for the production and dissemination of cinema in the early twentieth century. Narrative fiction, then, should be considered along with the other precursors of filmic technology as a form of the proto-cinematic, a term I use as media scholars do—to describe devices integral to film history but that also each had a cultural impact in its own unique way.

To demonstrate and support this argument, my project first introduces readers to a range of proto-cinematic technologies, toys that were important during the nineteenth century, and establishes these as a lens through which we might read Victorian narratives. The subsequent chapters offer close readings that delineate my proposed methodology; texts include Dickens’s Nicholas Nickleby, Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, Lewis Carroll’s Alice books, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories.

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