Victorian Prism: Refractions of the Crystal Palace

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James Buzard, Assistant Professor of English James Buzard, Joseph W. Childers, Joseph Childers, Eileen Gillooly, Jerome J. McGann, Herbert F. Tucker
University of Virginia Press, 2007 - History - 327 pages
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From the moment it opened on the first of May in the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, London, the Great Exhibition of 1851 was one of the defining events of the Victorian period. It stood not only as a visible symbol of British industrial and technological progress but as a figure for modernity--a figure that has often been thought to convey one coherent message and vision of culture and society.

This volume examines the place occupied both materially and discursively by the Crystal Palace and other nineteenth- and twentieth-century exhibitions in the struggle to understand what it means to be modern. Initiated in part by a number of conferences held in 2001 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Crystal Palace, Victorian Prism provides new perspectives to historians, literary critics, art historians, and others interested in how a large glass building in a London park could refract meaning from Caracas to Calcutta.

In its investigations of the ways of knowing and shaping the world that emerged during the planning and execution of this first "world's fair," Victorian Prism not only restores the multiplicity of experiences and other determining factors to our picture of the Great Exhibition; it makes reevaluation of the exhibition and its legacies the occasion for reevaluating modernity itself in its broadest sense--as the cultures, potentialities, and liabilities of the Enlightenment.

With essays by a number of leading scholars in their fields, the collection as a whole focuses on how these exhibitions, in attempting to define the cultures of their day, incorporated a range of conflicting ideologies and agendas. In doing so, it offers a richer, more complex understanding of the experience of modernity than we have previously acknowledged. The volume also addresses the ways in which the cultural processes and tendencies brought together in these exhibitions have been refracted down to the present, thus informing and complicating our own relationship to both modernity and postmodernity.

 

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Contents

National Portraits
11
EXHIBITIONARY AIMS AND ANXIETIES
21
Globalism Nationalism
40
The Dreaming Collection
55
Looking at Art at the Great Exhibition
84
The Great Exhibition of Power
123
A Palace for the People? The Crystal Palace and Consumer Culture
138
Distracting Impressions and Rational Recreation at the Great
151
The Palestine Exhibition and the Limits
186
Colonials and Exhibitions
203
The First Venezuelan
216
The Great Exhibition and Modernization
233
The Crystal Palace Bleak House and Intellectual
250
Crystal Palace to Millennium Dome
270
BIBLIOGRAPHY
291
NOTES ON CONTRIBUTORS
313

The Native American and the Crystal Palace
171

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2007)

James Buzard is Professor of Literature at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Joseph W. Childers is Professor of English at the University of California, Riverside. Eileen Gillooly is Associate Director of the Heyman Center for the Humanities at Columbia University and a member of the Department of English.

Bibliographic information