Engaging with the magic lantern’s history

Frank Gray

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Part III: Approaches to the Hidden History of Screen Culture: Frank Gray Engaging with the Magic Lantern’s History Book abstract: Public performances using the magic or optical lantern became a widespread feature of the social fabric in the 19th century. The “Art of Projection” established the screen as a regular and central feature of cultural life. By 1900 a vast number of lantern slide sets (and later also films) were used in many countries, presenting images of slum life and destitution and contributing to controversial discourses on the Social Question like the ongoing temperance campaigns. Their impact in the public sphere has hardly been explored in either social or media history. In this volume sixteen international scholars address the issues of Screen Culture and the Social Question from different perspectives. Drawing on a rich variety of primary sources they investigate the impact of the lantern and cinematograph in public lectures, entertainments, church services and electoral campaigns. They examine how social reformers like Jacob Riis, as well as charitable organisations, raised public awareness of living conditions of the poor and destitute. They discuss use of visually shocking lectures and adaptations of sentimental stories, like those of Victorian celebrity George R. Sims, to argue for social reform and encourage the audience to help themselves and others. Case studies demonstrate uses of projection for education and entertainment of the poor, and as an agent of social prevention in the context of health and lifestyle. Finally approaches to the ‘hidden history’ of screen culture are outlined as a basis for an internationally agreed research agenda, including an introduction to the LUCERNA Magic Lantern Web Resource.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationScreen culture and the social question, 1880-1914
EditorsLudwig Vogl-Bienek, Richard Crangle
Place of PublicationNew Barnett, UK
PublisherJohn Libbey
ISBN (Print)9780861967094
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2013


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