Professor Russell Potter on “Travel by Pictorial Means: Victorian Virtualities of the Arctic Regions”
Rhode Island College Professor of English Russell Potter, author of Arctic Spectacles: The Frozen North in Visual Culture 1818-1875, will illustrate some of the ways in which Victorian audiences encountered the perils of the Arctic, seeming to accompany polar explorers via a variety of visual and mechanical contrivances, among them the Panorama, the Diorama, the Moving Panorama, and the Magic Lantern. Original engravings, handbills, and advertisements of these shows will be accompanied by images from books and lantern slides of the period, including some from the Athenaeum’s collections. The talk will conclude with a visit to one of the last, and most ambitious of polar spectacles, Carl Hagenbeck’s Eismeer- Panorama of 1896, which featured live polar bears and seals, with predator and prey separated by deep ditches hidden from the spectators.
Free and open to the public at the Providence Athenaeum.
Arctic Spectacles Book Description: This book lluminates the nineteenth-century fascination–in Britain and the U.S.–with visual representations of the Arctic, from fine art to panoramas, engravings, magic lantern slides, and photographs. Drawing from letters, diaries, cartoons, and sketches, as well as ephemera such as newspaper advertisements, playbills, and program booklets, Potter shows how representations of the Arctic expressed the fascination, dread, and wonder that the region inspired, and continues to inspire today.
About Russell Potter: Russell A. Potter is an American writer and college professor. His work encompasses hip hop culture, popular music, and the history of British exploration of the Arctic in the nineteenth century. His books include Spectacular Vernaculars: Hip-Hop and the Politics of Postmodernism (1995) and Arctic Spectacles: The Frozen North in Visual Culture, 1818-1875 (2007), as well as a novel, Pyg: The Memoirs of a Learned Pig (2011). He teaches at Rhode Island College, where he is editor of the Arctic Book Review. He also worked as a consultant on, and appears in, the Nova documentary Arctic Passage (2006).