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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

CANCELLED - Seminar: Spectacles of Light and Glass: From the Shop Window to the 'Rear Window' by Dr Anna Woodhouse, Fulbright Commission

10th January 2014, 14:30 to 15:30, Seminar Room, Institute of Advanced Study, Dr Anna Woodhouse, Fulbright Commission

Glass is sometimes seen as an inherently democratizing substance. Material transparency is sometimes equated with moral transparency. This paper interrogates such assumptions. It charts the expansion of a commodity-conditioned gaze through glass into the realms of social life and culture, to explore the ways in which commercial display and the proliferation of glass in modern cities materializes abstract boundaries between self and other, and reinforces social power relations. How, for example, does glass come to mediate a discourse of desire and objectification? How does it affect out ways of seeing, both ourselves and one another? And how might seeing constitute a form of social power? Examining cultural representations of glass across a range of texts, this paper seeks to shed light upon such questions.


Entitled, ‘Looking Through Glass: Representations of Window’s, Lenses and Spectacles in Modern American Literature’, Anna secured her PhD from the University of Leeds in 2012. She is the author of ‘An Ethics of Seeing in Sontag’s On Photography & Weegee’s Naked City,’ in Writing With Light: Words and Photographs in American Texts, (edited by Mick Gidley, Oxford: Peter Lang, 2010), and ‘The Woolrichian Window and the Democratization of the Detective in ‘Rear Window’ (1942)’, (Comparative American Studies, Dec 2013). In May 2013 she also gave a talk on the Radio 4 programme, Four Thought, entitled ‘Windows to the Soul’. Anna’s research was supported by the AHRC and, during her PhD, she also secured a Fulbright Scholarship. She currently works for the Fulbright Commission coordinating their UK Scholar programmes.


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