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Aesthetics of Astonishment and Contemplation in the Sublime View: Nature Tours and Early Scenic Filmmaking in Great Britain

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Aesthetics of Astonishment and Contemplation in the Sublime View: Nature Tours and Early Scenic Filmmaking in Great Britain

Wilson, Samantha (2016) Aesthetics of Astonishment and Contemplation in the Sublime View: Nature Tours and Early Scenic Filmmaking in Great Britain. PhD thesis, Concordia University.

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Abstract

This dissertation examines the shift between object and image in popular and philosophical attitudes towards nature by tracing the aesthetic and epistemological role of the sublime view through a series of prescriptive texts and screen technologies which became increasingly popular in Great Britain within the second half of the 19th century. The natural sublime was symptomatic of a crisis that lies at the heart of environmental aesthetics: the inability to construct and rely on a framing mechanism when making judgments about natural spaces. Each text provided a way to mediate those experiences beginning with early 18th century topographical literature, Romantic and picturesque tour guides written in the early 19th century, mid 19th century painted panoramas, and, finally, scenic filmmaking in the first two decades of the 20th century. The project uses this discursive lineage to analyze the role of these texts and technologies in reconstructing the expectations of nature appreciation, with scenic filmmaking representing the culmination of that transition. While each catered to a separate socio-economic group, they all helped mask a persistent cultural anxiety over where spectator and natural phenomena should meet.
The project proposes a shift away from previous historical models which address contemplation and astonishment as separate aesthetic models by presenting a new reading of the 18th century natural sublime. Unlike traditional forms of appreciation like beauty, which depended upon detached contemplation, the sublime was only accessible at the precarious place where immersion and detachment met. Here specific vantage points constructed an interplay between traditionally opposed spectatorial states. The aesthetic category seemed, in fact, completely counter intuitive to both the other categories valued by the period and the stability provided by the neo-classical frame, and yet this precariousness only enhanced its cultural and conceptual cache. The concept eventually initiated its own cultural industry associated with nature appreciation which placed the problem of spectatorship at the centre of its popular discourse.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Fine Arts > Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema
Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Authors:Wilson, Samantha
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:Ph. D.
Program:Film and Moving Image Studies
Date:1 May 2016
Thesis Supervisor(s):Rist, Peter
ID Code:981353
Deposited By: SAMANTHA WILSON
Deposited On:09 Nov 2016 15:45
Last Modified:18 Jan 2018 17:52
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