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Disenchanted Night: The Industrialization of Light in the Nineteenth Century

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Wolfgang Schivelbusch tells the story of the development of artificial light in the nineteenth century. Not simply a history of a technology, Disenchanted Night reveals the ways that the technology of artificial illumination helped forge modern consciousness. In his strikingly illustrated and lively narrative, Schivelbusch discusses a range of subject including the politic Wolfgang Schivelbusch tells the story of the development of artificial light in the nineteenth century. Not simply a history of a technology, Disenchanted Night reveals the ways that the technology of artificial illumination helped forge modern consciousness. In his strikingly illustrated and lively narrative, Schivelbusch discusses a range of subject including the political symbolism of streetlamps, the rise of nightlife and the shopwindow, and the importance of the salon in bourgeois culture.


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Wolfgang Schivelbusch tells the story of the development of artificial light in the nineteenth century. Not simply a history of a technology, Disenchanted Night reveals the ways that the technology of artificial illumination helped forge modern consciousness. In his strikingly illustrated and lively narrative, Schivelbusch discusses a range of subject including the politic Wolfgang Schivelbusch tells the story of the development of artificial light in the nineteenth century. Not simply a history of a technology, Disenchanted Night reveals the ways that the technology of artificial illumination helped forge modern consciousness. In his strikingly illustrated and lively narrative, Schivelbusch discusses a range of subject including the political symbolism of streetlamps, the rise of nightlife and the shopwindow, and the importance of the salon in bourgeois culture.

30 review for Disenchanted Night: The Industrialization of Light in the Nineteenth Century

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

    Lots of fascinating stuff here - in particular the psychological and cultural effect of the gradual move from fire, to torch, to candle, to oil, to gas, to electric which served in part to alienate light from the individual. When light was produced by a visible flame that could be seen devouring the fuel it needed it allowed an individual autonomy, and a connection with the process, that was lost when light became something provided by invisible production outside the home (first by gas and then Lots of fascinating stuff here - in particular the psychological and cultural effect of the gradual move from fire, to torch, to candle, to oil, to gas, to electric which served in part to alienate light from the individual. When light was produced by a visible flame that could be seen devouring the fuel it needed it allowed an individual autonomy, and a connection with the process, that was lost when light became something provided by invisible production outside the home (first by gas and then by electricity). Plugging in to the mains and the flick of a switch. A monthly bill. All of which had interesting effects on the sense of the "private" space of the home. It of course also tied into the development of capitalist society occurring over the same period, which included many similar moves away from such autonomy (banking, mass production etc) Also interesting was the section on street lighting - and the various uses and abuses of light as a function of state power. Hence the fondness for street lamp smashing at times of revolution. Worth reading. In fact you can read the first 20 or so pages here: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=a...

  2. 4 out of 5

    Данило Судин

    Ця стара-нова ("стара", бо вперше опублікована 1983 р., а "нова", бо в Україні видана 2014 р.) робота Шивельбуша спершу не вражає: автор розпочинає історію з розповіді про те, як газове освітлення витіснило гасове та свічки, а потім як електричне освітлення витіснило газове. Багато технічних деталей, імен інженерів... Все це створювало враження, що читаєш текст звичайної історії техніки. Втім, вже починаючи з 2-го розділу автор раптом змінює свій погляд на матеріал: подавши технічну базу освітлен Ця стара-нова ("стара", бо вперше опублікована 1983 р., а "нова", бо в Україні видана 2014 р.) робота Шивельбуша спершу не вражає: автор розпочинає історію з розповіді про те, як газове освітлення витіснило гасове та свічки, а потім як електричне освітлення витіснило газове. Багато технічних деталей, імен інженерів... Все це створювало враження, що читаєш текст звичайної історії техніки. Втім, вже починаючи з 2-го розділу автор раптом змінює свій погляд на матеріал: подавши технічну базу освітлення в ХІХ ст. він описує звивисті шляхи, якими нові способи освітлення проникали в різні сфери життя людей - вулицю, приватні помешкання, громадські заклади (театри). Навіть більше, автор починає описувати взаємозв’язок між освітленням і соціальним життям. Виявляється, в театрах світло не прийнято було вимикати до кін. ХІХ ст. Звісно, були спроби Ваґнера створити "містичну прірву" між глядачами та сценою, але їх публіка вперто не сприймала: зал має бути освітленим, інакше як похизуєшся своїм виглядом та соціальним статусом. На прем’єрі "Перстеня Нібелунгів", коли в залі погасили світло, досвідчені театрали почали обурюватися: темрява в залі змушує їх зосереджувати всю увагу на сцені! Так само автор окреслює дуже цікаву проблему: зміну освітлення в жилих приміщеннях. Якщо за часів Ренесансу природне світло мало вільно проникати в дім (це символізувало єдність людини і природи), то з XVIII ст. раптом світло починають розділяти на зовнішнє і внутрішнє. Походження цього поділу Шивельбуш виводить від поділу на публічне і приватне, який усталюється в цей час. Так само цікавим є факт сприйняття вуличних ліхтарів: Шивельбуш цитує Башляра, але думає про Фуко. Тобто показує, що вуличні ліхтарі у Франції були символом королівської влади, яка показувала, що нічні вулиці є під її контролем, як і сон мешканців будинків: якщо ліхтар гаснув, то власник будинку, біля якого цей ліхтар розміщений, повинен був його негайно запалити. Відтак, Французька революція мала гасло "Аристократів на ліхтарі!" не просто так, а через погано приховану іронію: карати гнобителів їхніми ж знаряддями гноблення. Книжка цікава, але переклад деколи лякає: "керосин" замість "гас", "шар" замість "куля", "століття" замість "десятиліття" тощо. Втім, працю читати можна: ці русизми зміст не спотворюють.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Debra

    I have always taken electric light for granted, and imagined life before industrially produced electricity as kind of how it's portrayed in the movies, where things are just, you know, a bit dim at night. But what I learned from Schivelbusch's surprisingly entertaining book (ok, who really thinks a 74 page chapter about the development of various types of lamps is going to be a page turner?), is that the night before electricity, and more so before gas lighting, was a deeply dark, and frequently I have always taken electric light for granted, and imagined life before industrially produced electricity as kind of how it's portrayed in the movies, where things are just, you know, a bit dim at night. But what I learned from Schivelbusch's surprisingly entertaining book (ok, who really thinks a 74 page chapter about the development of various types of lamps is going to be a page turner?), is that the night before electricity, and more so before gas lighting, was a deeply dark, and frequently terrifying, place. The aforementioned chapter, The Lamp, maybe went into a bit more technical detail than I would have liked. But, Shivelbusch livened things up with some observations on processes of technological change, making points such as: it's not necessarily the person who invents it that we remember, but the person who communicates it; new technologies are generally modeled on old and breaking away from the assumptions and expectations built into old technologies is frequently the path to change; and technological change is often a process of two steps forward and one step back. These observations built into the detailed discussion of the development of lighting technology made this, in my opinion, the strongest part of the book. The Street focused on evolving technologies of street lighting. It made me laugh to read about how many North American cities invested in giant lighting towers to illuminate large districts - mostly because a friend recently told me about one such tower in Austin, and it sounded so bizarre that I didn't believe her, only to find out that this was widespread. Night Life tread pretty quickly through a territory that has been pretty heavily covered by art and social historians: how illumination got people out partying and shopping at night in 19th century cities. I think there was a bit too much on curtain colour and lampshades in The Drawing-room for my taste, but the chapter as a whole definitely reinforced one of Schivelbusch's main points: how we experience electrical light is socially constructed, although after a century of nearly universal electric light (in developed cities), it may feel innate. Finally, The Stage got into more territory that has been well covered by art historians: the development of theatre and ways of seeing. Needless to say, theatre evolved over time from being a primarily social space with both audience and actors interacting, to one of passive viewing with lighting itself used to create the illusion and focus. Based on my fascination with the section on lighting technology, I have to say that although there were quite a few parts of this book that I felt like I'd read about before, I think that for someone with a different background, this book would be utterly fascinating. Extra points, too, for the well selected illustrations throughout. Essentially, Schivelbusch managed to bring together the technological, social and aesthetic into a quite convincing argument that lighting technology hasn't just improved the way we see, it has fundamentally altered it.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    Awesome. I want to remove most of the lights out of my house and return to candles and oil lamps.

  5. 5 out of 5

    shawn

    Very interesting book using the history of illumination to put forth an adaptive sociology of light-awareness. Poses and answers this basic question: How have the changes and technological advances in our artificial sources of public and household lighting affected our societies, individual psyches, and understanding of ourselves and our place in the world? Compelling material, to be sure. Great exploration of a fairly obscure premise. (Also incidentally provides the underpinnings of the narrati Very interesting book using the history of illumination to put forth an adaptive sociology of light-awareness. Poses and answers this basic question: How have the changes and technological advances in our artificial sources of public and household lighting affected our societies, individual psyches, and understanding of ourselves and our place in the world? Compelling material, to be sure. Great exploration of a fairly obscure premise. (Also incidentally provides the underpinnings of the narrative arc of Thomas Pynchon's "Against the Day", one of the best books in recent years.)

  6. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    We take electric light for granted... yet most people who lived at the turn of the 20th Century agree that electric lighting was the most revolutionary change they witnessed. Never before in human history could people work, play, love, laugh so long after the sun went down as though it were day. This fascinating book explores how cultural mores and social interaction changed with the development of lighting from Medieval times to present.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Nina

    This book explores a niche in the sociological history - the effect the technological and industrial development of light had on the common cultural and psychological understandings of society. Quite obscure but interesting and theoretically sound and filled with new information - for me, at least.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Drew

    Never thought the history of lighting could be interesting at all. But this book really was. care to know why arc lights never gained in popularity? how about why electricity is distributed as it is?

  9. 4 out of 5

    Walid

    enlightening! (what a fucking silly pun to make... arrrgh!!!)

  10. 4 out of 5

    Katie Jones

    Really interesting book that explains how the industrialization of light changed the course of history...starting with the French Revolution.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    Interesting look at the ways in which lighting technology is directly tied to industrialization and modernity.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Joseph Hirsch

    This is a solid overview of the history of lighting, public and private, from roughly the ancien regime days to fin-de-siecle when Europe was on the doorstep of true modernity. Yes, it is nominally about the 19th century, but this brief and concise overview also manages to cover the development of light from roughly the 18th century to the 20th century. There is some good technical information involved, though not so much that the layman should feel alienated, or that the book should be classifi This is a solid overview of the history of lighting, public and private, from roughly the ancien regime days to fin-de-siecle when Europe was on the doorstep of true modernity. Yes, it is nominally about the 19th century, but this brief and concise overview also manages to cover the development of light from roughly the 18th century to the 20th century. There is some good technical information involved, though not so much that the layman should feel alienated, or that the book should be classified as ought but a social history. There's also a bit of Foucauldian (sic) theory in the mix, but this doesn't get too heavy-handed, and actually compliments the parts of the book that deal with light as a source of illumination, surveillance, and staging (especially in the chapter on how the lighting of shop windows turned consumers into both spectators and unwitting members of a large show). The book is well-divided and clearly delineated, and begins by dealing with the centralization of gas and electricity, the importance of maintaining lighted streets to hold literal control of the street by the state (especially in France), and the struggle to find a light that was neither too imposing nor too powerful. Bourgeois as well as proletarian and aristocratic attitudes to everything from argon lamps to candlelight are illuminated (hee-hee) in these pages. A very interesting chapter on how light affected the perception and performance of theater pieces acts as a good coda to the short and straightforward book. Illustrations, drawings, and etchings are liberally scattered throughout. The images, while all black-and-white, capture the kind of gloaming charm of gas-lit cities and massive public exhibitions and international fairs that inspired the imagination in the Victorian era and continue to exert a strong imaginative pull on younger generations, who are into the steampunk and Victorian futurism stuff. Recommended, in any case.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Travis Miller

    A short and enjoyable little book. It traces the evolution of lighting technology – from candles and oil lamps, through coal gas, paraffin, electric arc lighting, and finally carbon- and tungsten-filament light bulbs. Although it doesn't shy away from technological matters, the main focus is on the social, cultural, and – yes – even political effects of these new technologies. Accordingly, it's divided into five sections: The Lamp (where most of the technological aspects are covered), The Street, A short and enjoyable little book. It traces the evolution of lighting technology – from candles and oil lamps, through coal gas, paraffin, electric arc lighting, and finally carbon- and tungsten-filament light bulbs. Although it doesn't shy away from technological matters, the main focus is on the social, cultural, and – yes – even political effects of these new technologies. Accordingly, it's divided into five sections: The Lamp (where most of the technological aspects are covered), The Street, Night Life, The Drawing Room (lighting in the domestic sphere), and The Stage (how new forms of lighting affected the theater and related arts). Although it's a decidedly Eurocentric book, and the author does veer into speculation and generalization at times, I learned a lot from this short volume. If anything about this sounds interesting to you, I definitely recommend it.

  14. 5 out of 5

    John

    Lovely, if finally bound by a misnomer. The mystical abyss--Wagner's term for the "empty space between the proscenium and the audience"--is here and there, and all around: the lighted room from down the unlit hall, the lighted hall from within the unlit room, the screen from across the keyboard and desk's apron. The industrialization of light has generalized enchantment and inured us to the spell. The fire's gone out but the light is never dying. Lovely, if finally bound by a misnomer. The mystical abyss--Wagner's term for the "empty space between the proscenium and the audience"--is here and there, and all around: the lighted room from down the unlit hall, the lighted hall from within the unlit room, the screen from across the keyboard and desk's apron. The industrialization of light has generalized enchantment and inured us to the spell. The fire's gone out but the light is never dying.

  15. 4 out of 5

    patrick

    made me rethink my relationship with artificial light and appreciate the absurd course the development of the lamp took. really appreciated the nuanced developments along the way that although minor in retrospect took a many people many years to realize and how different the introduction, trendiness and place in society light took in different countries.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Thi

    Das Buch lässt sich wunderbar lesen, gerade zu einem Nischen-Thema!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Dilip

    An intensely articulated ethnohistory of a certain period within modernity that is often ignored simply for the fact that it is hyper-embedded within the contemporary everyday.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Robert Herry

    ds

  19. 5 out of 5

    Yulya Yurchenko

    Цікаво, інформативно, хороша тема. Але так тяжко йшов текст.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    If anything, this book could be twice as long :o)

  21. 5 out of 5

    MikeD

    Not particularly gripping, but, at times, interesting. One part I found interesting was the concept of smashing of lanterns as a rebellious act.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Christina

    A lead up to how Motel 6 got its catch phrase, "We'll leave the light on for ya." Or, a "Land Before Al Gore started pushing you those squiggly looking light bulbs down your throat." A lead up to how Motel 6 got its catch phrase, "We'll leave the light on for ya." Or, a "Land Before Al Gore started pushing you those squiggly looking light bulbs down your throat."

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sam

  24. 5 out of 5

    Susana

  25. 5 out of 5

    Petra

  26. 5 out of 5

    Dede

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Mclean

  28. 5 out of 5

    Franklin Ridgway

  29. 5 out of 5

    formiate

  30. 5 out of 5

    Puiu

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