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Title: Dementia's jester : the Phantasmagoria in metaphor and aesthetics from 1700-1900
Author: Small, Douglas Robert John
ISNI:       0000 0004 2735 1265
Awarding Body: University of Glasgow
Current Institution: University of Glasgow
Date of Award: 2013
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In 1792, the inventor and illusionist Paul Philidor unveiled the ‘Phantasmagoria’ to the people of Paris. Coined by combining the Greek words ‘phantasma’ (appearance, vision, ghost) and ‘agora’ (assembly), Philidor had intended the name to suggest a vast crowd of the undead, a riotous carnival of phantoms. He promised his audience that, using the projections of a magic lantern and other ingenious mechanical devices, he would show them the illusory shapes of ghosts and monsters, reunite lovers separated by death, and call fiends out of hell. However, this exhibition of illusory spectres was to become something far more than a mere footnote in the history of Romantic popular entertainment. The Phantasmagoria was to assume a metaphorical function in the mindscape of the period; this cavalcade of spectres was to come to serve as an image for not only the fantastic terrors of dreams and hallucinations, but also for the unbounded creative power of the imagination. Besides this, the metaphor of the phantasmagoria was to subsume into itself an idea which had its origin in the ‘Curiosity Culture’ of the previous century: the curious collection. As time wore on, this Curious – or Phantasmagorical – collection became a symbol by which writers of the late Nineteenth Century could signal their resistance to bourgeois conformity and their own paradoxical celebration and rejection of consumer culture. This work examines the evolution of the Phantasmagoria metaphor as well as the development of its associated aesthetic: the aesthetic of the curious collection – the collection of weird and fabulous objects that astonishes the senses and confuses the mind, erasing the boundaries between reality and fantasy.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: PR English literature