The Poetics of Transparency / Translucency / Reflection: Glass, Capital, and Urban Narratives
- Chia-Chieh (“Mavis”) Tseng (Rutgers University)
Since the mid nineteenth century, glass buildings have featured capitals such as London (The Crystal Palace) and Paris (the Arcades). As Isobel Armstrong (2009) rightly asserts, “The nineteenth century was the era of public glass.” This statement rings true even in twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Nowadays almost every capital is a “city of glass,” with skyscrapers, shop windows, and ceiling-to-floor windows in high-end restaurants everywhere. Glass is not merely a material substance that transforms cityscapes, it also unsettles existing conceptions regarding domestic and public spaces, and redefines urban dwellers’ identities, affects, and desires. Following Armstrong’s insights about the peculiar materiality of glass as a medium and barrier and Anne Friedberg (2009)’s discussion of windows used as metaphors, this panel aims to examine the multiple functions and representations of glass in art, film, and literature: as an object of critique, a literary or visual device, and a trope for examining urban genres themselves. For example, Armstrong argues that the nineteenth-century novel “is founded on glass culture.” In literary and film studies, glass is frequently used as a privileged trope to reflexively examine the genres themselves, which are argued to function like a mirror or a window to the world it represents.
Potential topics for this panel include: glass and urban modernity; transparency, translucency, opaqueness, visibility/invisibility, reflection, looking through/looking at, window display, window shopping, commodities, framing, screen, mirrors/windows as metaphors, materiality/immateriality of glass, cultures of glass in a digital age (Google Glass), etc.
SEMINAR KEYWORDS: urban modernity, glass, windows, mirrors, display, window shopping, framing, commodities, skyscrapers, reflection, transparency, visibility/invisibility