Moving images and modern fiction
Gatewood, Jane Erin
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By turning to the advent of moving images in the 1870s, I demonstrate that the aesthetic and formal shifts evident in the modern novel are not only the embodiment of subjective vision and a reaction to changing norms of aesthetic representation informed by technological mediation, but that these changes occurred much earlier than has previously been thought. By tracing a dialectic between moving images and modern novelists, I demonstrate that these authors and their progeny were not only interested in moving images but that the aesthetic of moving images and the debates surrounding them were integral to their developing literary style and form. Rather than situate the predominant link between cinema and modern literature in works of the Twenties and Thirties, this study explores the nascent relationship between the written word and visual media emerging at the end of the nineteenth century, demonstrating that while early film very often aspired to novelistic narrative, the novel likewise made compelling turns toward moving images much earlier than previously thought. My project will link two key progenitors of literary modernity—Henry James and Joseph Conrad—with early motion pictures and emergent cinema. By following such a path, we arrive at a more comprehensive picture of the form, as well as the function, of the modern novel.