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Victorian Visual Imagination

Decent Essays
Carol T. Christ and John O. Jordan first used the term “Victorian visual imagination” in 1995 in their book Victorian literature and the Victorian Visual Imagination and Kate Flint re-used it five years later in her book The Victorians and the Visual Imagination. Christ and Jordan explain that aesthetic theorists in nineteenth-century Britain regarded the eye as the “pre-eminent organ of truth” and that poetic theory of the nineteenth century hailed the “inward eye” and the poet's power of “painting a picture to the inward eye”, thus creating a word painting (xxii – xxiii). The painting of pictures in one’s mind’s eye is seen in the poetry of Alfred Lord Tennyson where his extensive descriptions of Nature are used to produce what Henry James called “the illusion of life” (Christ and Jordan xx).
Kate Flint’sThe Victorians and the Visual Imagination also emphasizes the role of sight in Victorian culture. Flint states
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The prominence of visual detail in Victorian poetry reflects the importance on the accounts of perception. Both objective and subjective accounts of perception in Victorian poetics anchor themselves in the visual. Ruskin’s conviction was that the poet’s responsibility is to provide a true account of the appearances of things.
At mid-century, Tennyson and Browning had evolved a distinct poetics from their Romantic roots: representation of a singular subjectivity in a dramatic context that allows ironic distance and implication; use of visual detail to mediate between subjective and objective ideas of perception; experiments with perspectives to generate large poetic forms with ambition of social and philosophical statement; and an embrace of elaboration Ruskin’s assertion that accurate, honest visual representation would be sufficient to penetrate nature’s ‘meaning’, in
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