Panorama of London: Virtuality and Presence in Nineteenth-Century Spectacle Culture

Molly Catherine Briggs

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Abstract

    The medium known as the panorama imbricated the sensations of overview and immersion in a manner that influenced not only nineteenth-century popular culture but also the very concept of the entity construed as landscape for over a century. Much like panoramas, the large urban landscape parks that emerged during that period constituted curated, immersive, multimedia landscape representations that required supplementation by two-dimensional media, invoked and evoked sensations of motion, and informed period conceptions of nature. Furthermore, panoramic representations played an important role in conceiving, designing,and promoting park landscapes and park systems in this period.The landscape significance of the panoramic ideal is typified in the way a boy’s gaze meets the reader’s eyes from across the picture plane in the final illustration of an 1830 travel guide called Panorama of London. Indeed, the guide’s references to the panorama in its title, content, frontispiece, and final image invokes the full range of the word’s period significance, from popular entertainments to designed landscapes that were defined by their capacity to deliver simultaneously expansive and immersive experiences. A close visual and textual reading of this and another guide to London’s panoramic attractions shows that the public park landscape was a centrally important exemplar of the panoramic mode of perception. This paper develops the case that panoramas and designed landscapes were related, mediated expressions of the negotiation of reality and artifice that defined nineteenth-century spectacle culture. Elucidating the expansive period significance of the word panorama as it was used in the guidebook reveals the paradoxical status of both nineteenth century park landscapes and the popular attractions known as panoramas as curated multimedia representations that were experienced as is they were real.
    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)69-76
    JournalJournal of the International Panorama Council
    Volume3
    StatePublished - 2019

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