Arctic Spectacles: The Frozen North in Visual Culture, 1818-1875 (Samuel and Althea Stroum Books)

Arctic Spectacles: The Frozen North in Visual Culture, 1818-1875 (Samuel and Althea Stroum Books)

By: Russell Alan Potter (author)Hardback

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When every land seems already explored, and space travel has declined in scope and prestige, the northern exploits of our Victorian forebears offers a pleasantly distant mirror from which to regard our own time. The Arctic regions have been the subject of a long-lasting visual fascination, one which has from the outset crossed boundaries between fine art and mass entertainment, "high" and "low" cultures, and even national identity. In the mid-nineteenth century, this polar passion reached a peak, dominating the visual culture of both Britain and America, and yet its history is scarcely known. Arctic Spectacles: The Frozen North on Visual Culture, 1818-1875 illuminates the nineteenth-century fascination with visual representations of the Arctic, weaving together a narrative of the major Arctic expeditions with an account of their public reception through art and mass media. In a century that saw every corner of the globe slowly open to the examining eye of Western science, it was the Arctic - remote, mysterious, untamable - that most captured the imagination of artists and the public alike. Its impact could be seen in a range of visual media from fine art to panoramas, engravings, magic lantern slides, and photographs, as well as hybrid forms of entertainment in which Inuit were "exhibited" alongside a cabinet of assorted Arctic curiosities while Western gentlemen looked on. In a lively and accessible style, Russell Potter traces the story of the long, drawn-out exploration of the Northwest Passage and the beginnings of the push toward the North Pole, each new expedition producing its own artistic response. While early visual representations focused on the natural wonders of a world of magical beauty and purity, later responses would darken, as the public struggled to come to terms with the human toll of Arctic exploration: lives lost, reports of cannibalism, and a sense of purpose gone asunder. Drawing from letters, diaries, cartoons, and sketches, as well as oft-overlooked ephemera such as newspaper advertisements, playbills, and program booklets, Potter shows how representations of the Arctic in visual culture expressed the fascination, dread, and wonder that the region inspired, and continues to inspire today.

About Author

Russell A. Potter is professor of English at Rhode Island College. For more information go to


Acknowledgments Introduction: Visuality and the Arctic Regions Plates A Foretaste of Those Icy Climes: Britain's Arctic Circles The Awful Aspect of the Scene: Arctic Panoramas and the Northern Sublime The Killing Glitter of the Stars: Spectacles of the Search for Franklin Things Dimly Shadowed Forth: Picturing the "Last Dread Alternative" The Arctic Panoramas of Elisha Kent Kane Testing the Region of the Ice-bound Soul: Private Drama and Public Spectacle A Late and Sad Discovery: Death and the Arctic Sublime Curiosities of Unusual Interest: The Arctic Shows of Charles Francis Hall A Most Weird and Beautiful Picture: Church's Visions of the Arctic Regions, 1860-1864 The Photographic Artist: William Bradford and the Close of the Panoramic Era Epilogue: New Media, New Horizons Appendix: Arctic Shows and Entertainments, 1819-1896: An Annotated Chronological Checklist NotesBibliographyIndex

Product Details

  • ISBN13: 9780295986791
  • Format: Hardback
  • Number Of Pages: 272
  • ID: 9780295986791
  • weight: 1248
  • ISBN10: 0295986794

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