Capturing moments : reading literature as an archive of photographic history c. 1839- c.1930
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In this thesis I study three writers - Charles Dickens (1812-1870), Amy Levy (1861-1889) and Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930) - for traces, nuances and evidences which capture the precarious position of photography and its evolution in the social and intellectual imagination between 1839-1930. Selected owing to their interest in and engagement with photography, my research combines a study of the literary output of these three writers with their personal writings, to trace photographic references in them. Using these references, I establish them as case studies which, through the intersections and overlaps between their fiction and their direct engagement with photography at the artistic, technical or professional levels, offer insights into the life of photography between the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Schematically, the thesis is organized as per a rough chronology of these writers as they appear in history. I begin with Charles Dickens, in whose work and writings can be found crucial details of the early history and indeed, the prehistory of photography from the 1840s to the 1880s. Amy Levy and Arthur Conan Doyle arguably belong to the second phase of the evolution of photography in the nineteenth century as it yields to the twentieth, representing and archiving two distinctive aspects of photography. Levy makes photography the avowed theme and context of her novel and documents the multifarious and often unexpected tribulations and possibilities that photography offers as it grows and flourishes into a commercial trade with all the professional wherewithal. As a practicing amateur photographer, Conan Doyle focuses on the artistic side of photography with a passion, and the evidence value of photography in his detective fiction. As photography makes a slow but permanent appearance in the world, this thesis intends to pluck out some of its significant socio-cultural moments which embedded themselves in the literary fabric.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: 2027-07-16
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Restricted until 16th July 2027
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