Space, power and governance in mid-twentieth century British cities

Reconstructing modernity assesses the character of approaches to rebuilding British cities during the decades after the Second World War. It explores the strategies of spatial governance that sought to restructure society and looks at the cast of characters who shaped these processes. It challenges traditional views of urban modernism as moderate and humanist, shedding new light on the importance of the immediate post-war for the trajectory of urban renewal in the twentieth century. The book shows how local corporations and town planners in Manchester and Hull attempted to create order and functionality through the remaking of their decrepit Victorian cities. It looks at the motivations of national and local governments in the post-war rebuilding process and explores why and how they attempted the schemes they did. What emerges is a picture of local corporations, planners and city engineers as radical reshapers of the urban environment, not through the production of grand examples of architectural modernism, but in mundane attempts to zone cities, produce greener housing estates, control advertising or regulate air quality. Their ambition to control and shape the space of their cities was an attempt to produce urban environments that might be both more orderly and functional, but also held the potential to shape society.

A conceptual history 1200–1900

This collection explores how concepts of intellectual or learning disability evolved from a range of influences, gradually developing from earlier and decidedly distinct concepts, including ‘idiocy’ and ‘folly’, which were themselves generated by very specific social and intellectual environments. With essays extending across legal, educational, literary, religious, philosophical, and psychiatric histories, this collection maintains a rigorous distinction between historical and contemporary concepts in demonstrating how intellectual disability and related notions were products of the prevailing social, cultural, and intellectual environments in which they took form, and themselves performed important functions within these environments. Focusing on British and European material from the middle ages to the late nineteenth century, this collection asks ‘How and why did these concepts form?’ ‘How did they connect with one another?’ and ‘What historical circumstances contributed to building these connections?’ While the emphasis is on conceptual history or a history of ideas, these essays also address the consequences of these defining forces for the people who found themselves enclosed by the shifting definitional field.

From Burke’s Philosophical Enquiry to British Romantic art

The challenge of the sublime argues that the unprecedented visual inventiveness of the Romantic period in Britain could be seen as a response to theories of the sublime, more specifically to Edmund Burke’s Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (1757). While it is widely accepted that the Enquiry contributed to shaping the thematics of terror that became fashionable in British art from the 1770s, this book contends that its influence was of even greater consequence, paradoxically because of Burke’s conviction that the visual arts were incapable of conveying the sublime. His argument that the sublime was beyond the reach of painting, because of the mimetic nature of visual representation, directly or indirectly incited visual artists to explore not just new themes, but also new compositional strategies and even new or undeveloped pictorial and graphic media, such as the panorama, book illustrations and capricci. More significantly, it began to call into question mimetic representational models, causing artists to reflect about the presentation of the unpresentable and the inadequacy of their endeavours, and thus drawing attention to the process of artistic production itself, rather than the finished artwork. By revisiting the links between eighteenth-century aesthetic theory and visual practices, The challenge of the sublime establishes new interdisciplinary connections which address researchers in the fields of art history, cultural studies and aesthetics.

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Scopophobia in Renaissance texts
Elisabeth Bronfen and Beate Neumeier

Duncan Salkeld recognizes ‘the fusion of death and desire’ on the early modern English stage as origin ‘of the kind of aesthetic now recognisable as the Gothic’. Identifying the courtesan as the embodiment of this fusion, he reads the Zoppino dialogue as a paradigmatic text signalling the shift from a dialectic relation to a fusion of fascination and revulsion with a ‘contaminating female body’ through a scopophobic experience. Salkeld traces this obsessive desire for the dead female body on to the English Renaissance stage, and to plays like The Revenger’s Tragedy and The Second Maiden’s Tragedy.

in Gothic Renaissance
Heroes, heroines and ‘pioneers of progress’ in the teaching of history

Herbartianism posited that the creation of moral, patriotic, citizens was to be achieved most effectively through the teaching of moral biography. This chapter, then, examines how history lessons were used to encourage hero worship. The first section demonstrates how heroic attributes, endemic to characters from the Anglo-Saxon period onwards, were explained to be traits of an imperial race. Secondly, the chapter demonstrates the impact of the pedagogical concept of the ‘pedestal’ – that is, children were not only intended to worship hero figures, but both emulate them and engage in acts of collective commemoration. The third section analyses representations of ‘specifically’ imperial heroes and shows how Nelson, Clive, Wolfe and Gordon were depicted as embodiments of historical progress. Lastly, the chapter makes analysis of the class and gendered dynamics of hero worship and assesses why texts for younger children were far likelier than textbooks to include stories of ‘everyday’ heroes and heroines.

in Citizenship, Nation, Empire
Liam O’Flaherty’s The Informer (1925)

O’Flaherty’s celebrated novel concerns an act of overt political treason: Gypo Nolan, a disaffected member of ‘the party’ (the communists wing of the IRA), informs on a friend and comrade for £20. His subsequent descent into the ‘hell’ of post-Treaty Dublin, and his eventual redemption, are tracked by the author in remorseless detail. The Informer affords an insight into the complexities of political affiliation in post-revolutionary Ireland, when nationalists, Marxist-Leninists and loyalists of various shades all claimed the right to identify both fidelity to, and betrayal of, ‘the cause’. O’Flaherty brings a moral-religious perspective to bear upon the material concerns of contemporary politics, however; simultaneously Judas and Jesus, Gypo Nolan becomes the embodiment of a tragedy at the heart of the human condition: the absolute desire to affiliate weighed against the absolute desire to betray.

in The Judas kiss
Vocal performance, gesture and technology in Spanish film

This chapter explores the transition from post-synch to direct sound in Spanish cinema through a particular emphasis on José Luis López Vázquez’s voice. This chapter shows the ways in which sound design marked a shift in register from a gestural and presentational acting style to a more Stanislavskian mode of performance that stressed interiority and the unspoken. It further argues that direct sound shaped and transformed Spanish performance, reconfiguring the relationship between body and space in cinema. The analysis of López Vázquez’s vocal performance thus casts a light on the limits between the embodiment and disembodiment of performance and sound, as well as providing a means of tracing the emerging acting styles of the 1970s. The presence (and absence) of López Vázquez's voice in his performances, and how these were determined by the synchronisation of sound in post-production, provide a valuable opportunity to understand how technology and acting are linked in complex ways.

in Performance and Spanish film
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Horace Smith’s Mesmerism

Blending aspects of the religious novel with Gothic motifs, Horace Smith’s 1845 novel Mesmerism: A Mystery employs mesmerism to make its case for a radical transvaluation of death. Prematurely spiritualised by mesmeric treatment, the protagonist Jane Harvey attains a preternatural awareness of the liminal space between life and death, and, in the novel’s affirmative re-conception of the Death and the Maiden motif, she repeatedly encounters a mysterious phantom that proves to be the mildly uncanny yet enticing embodiment of death itself. The text evokes the ‘mistaken terror of death’ in order to dispel it and enthusiastically affirms both the Evangelical ‘good death’ and what Phillipe Ariès calls the ‘beautiful death’. However, in its disproportionate emphasis on death per se, and its polemical drive to reconceive death as ‘the universal friend’, the novel flirts with the heterodoxy that its personified Death is the principal redeemer of humankind.

in The Gothic and death

This chapter posits a psychoanalytic reading of Iginio Ugo Tarchetti’s short story I fatali (The Fated Ones) published posthumously in the collection Racconti fantastici (Fantastic Tales) (1869). It focuses on the mortal rivalry between the father and son figures, Count Sagrezwitch and Baron Saternez, who become known in late nineteenth-century Milanese society of the short story as true embodiments of fatal beings belonging to popular superstition, known as jinxes – bringers of bad fortune, illness, harm, and even death to others. Drawing from Otto Rank and Sigmund Freud’s conceptions of the Doppelgänger, it is argued that these protagonists emerge as complementary doubles for one another, as opposing incarnations of Death in the form of mysterious foreigners. This chapter also highlights the post-Unification, socio-cultural undertones of Tarchetti’s fantastic tale, affirms the existence of an Italian Gothic, and reveals the author’s portrayal of death’s spectacular nature.

in The Gothic and death
A case study of John Krish

The work of John Krish provides a useful means of examining the multi-layered patchwork that is British art cinema. Krish made documentaries for public and private clients. He made public information films, ‘B’ movies, adverts, and even a religious film, as well as working for the Children’s Film Foundation and for television. Whatever the format or genre, he pushed at the boundaries of what was acceptable, resulting in a number of his films being banned. The range of his work is startling and reflects the fragmentary nature of British film production from the 1950s to the 1970s. Nonetheless, a highly coherent body of work emerges, characterised both by dark humour and pessimism at human folly, and by a natural warmth towards his subjects, from lonely old men to deprived children. This chapter considers Krish’s auteur credentials and cult status, acknowledging his embodiment of the diversity and contradictions which characterise British art cinema.

in British art cinema