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Optical Impersonality

Science, Images, and Literary Modernism

Christina Walter

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Examines modernist writers’ efforts to map the social implications of an evolving science of vision and visual culture.

Western accounts of human vision before the nineteenth century tended to separate the bodily eye from the rational mind. This model gave way in the mid–nineteenth century to one in which the thinking subject, perceiving body, perceptual object, and material world could not be so easily separated. Christina Walter explores how this new physiology of vision provoked writers to reconceive the relations among image, text, sight, and subjectivity.

Walter focuses in particular on the...

Examines modernist writers’ efforts to map the social implications of an evolving science of vision and visual culture.

Western accounts of human vision before the nineteenth century tended to separate the bodily eye from the rational mind. This model gave way in the mid–nineteenth century to one in which the thinking subject, perceiving body, perceptual object, and material world could not be so easily separated. Christina Walter explores how this new physiology of vision provoked writers to reconceive the relations among image, text, sight, and subjectivity.

Walter focuses in particular on the ways in which modernist writers such as H.D., Mina Loy, D. H. Lawrence, and T. S. Eliot adapted modern optics and visual culture to develop an alternative to the self or person as a model of the human subject. Critics have long seen modernists as being concerned with an "impersonal" form of writing that rejects the earlier Romantic notion that literature was a direct expression of its author’s personality. Walter argues that scholars have misunderstood aesthetic impersonality as an evacuation of the person when it is instead an interrogation of what exactly goes into a personality. She shows that modernist impersonality embraced the embodied and incoherent notion of the human subject that resulted from contemporary physiological science and traces the legacy of that impersonality in current affect theory.

Optical Impersonality will appeal to scholars and advanced students of modernist literature and visual culture and to those interested in the intersections of art, literature, science, and technology.

Reviews

Reviews

Walter’s book certainly and productively opens up a rethinking of optical subjectivity, and offers engaging ways of critiquing the relationship between textual and imagistic form.

Christina Walter makes clear that hers is an account of impersonality whose critical stakes turn on their difference from previous scholarship on the topic.

Walter displays her "individual talent," which lies in showing not just how writers like Eliot manipulate impersonality toward their own ends, but also how critics’ misinterpretations of these maneuvers have led to an impoverished model of impersonal existence.

About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
352
ISBN
9781421413631
Illustration Description
30 halftones, 8 line drawings
Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction: Eye Don't See: Embodied Vision, Ontology, and Modernist Impersonality
The Visual Vernacular, Imagetextuality, and Modernism'sOptical Unconscious
The Modern Image and

Acknowledgments
Introduction: Eye Don't See: Embodied Vision, Ontology, and Modernist Impersonality
The Visual Vernacular, Imagetextuality, and Modernism'sOptical Unconscious
The Modern Image and Impersonality's Critique of Identity
1. A Protomodern Picture Impersonality: Walter Pater and Michael Field's Vision
Vision, Anders-streben, and Performance in The Renaissance
Pater contra Mérimée: Toward an Imperfect Impersonality
The Visual Field(s): Framing the Politics of Paterian Impersonality
2. Images of Incoherence: The Visual Body of H.D. Impersonaliste
Mixing an Imagist Pigment: Modern Art, Science, and Materiality in Sea Garden
"Sign-posting" Impersonality in Notes on Thought and Vision
Close Up and Impersonal: Subjectivity through the Camera Lens and the Talking Cure
Borderline's Aesthetic of Identity Dis-order
3. Getting Impersonal: Body Politics and Mina Loy's "Anti-Thesis of Self-Expression"
Feminism and Faces: Staving Off the Threat of Impersonal Negation
Optical Experiments and a Poetics "Beyond the Personal"
"Insel in the Air": Weighing the Politics of Impersonality
4. D. H. Lawrence's Impersonal Imperative: Vision, Bodies, and theRecovery of Identity
"Chaos Lit Up by Visions": Poetic Attention and Its Material Limits
From Impersonality to "Creative Identity": A Critical Sleight of Hand
Visual Evolution and Identitarian Futurity in Lady Chatterley's Lover
5. Managing the "Feeling into Which We Cannot Peer": T. S. Eliot'sImpersonal Matters
"New and Wonderful Visions": The Science of Eliot's Impersonality
The Waste and Repair Land: Impersonality, but with Gender
Redeeming the Still "Unread Vision": The Family Reunion's Dramatic Bodies
Afterword: Modernist Futurity: The "Creative Contagion" of Impersonality and Affect
A Shared Visual Vernacular: Affect Theory's Impersonality
Open Ended: Affecting Impersonality, Impersonalizing Affect
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Author Bio
Christina Walter
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Christina Walter

Christina Walter is an assistant professor of English at the University of Maryland.