Prosthetic Vision and Postmortem Cinema

in Screen Bodies
View More View Less
  • 1 Dalhousie University, Canada
Restricted access

Abstract

The nineteenth-century science of “optography” was based on the idea that an image of the last thing seen at the moment of death would be imprinted on the retina. This idea was inspired by the invention of photography, which reinforced the mechanistic notion of the eye as a camera, and it was frequently criticized in nineteenth-century literary texts, in which eyes more often record images generated from within the mind. Belief in optography began to wane at roughly the same time that cinema became a popular form of entertainment, but it continued to appear in several films in which severed eyes function as cameras or optical implants are used to record visual impressions that can be viewed after the death of the subject. This article examines how these optographic narratives continued to reinforce the mechanistic notion of visual perception on which film technology was thought to depend.

Contributor Notes

Anthony Enns is an associate professor of contemporary culture at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. His edited collections include Screening Disability (2001), Sonic Mediations (2008), and Vibratory Modernism (2013). His work in film studies also has appeared in the journals Screen, Journal of Popular Film and Television, Quarterly Review of Film and Video, Popular Culture Review, and Studies in Popular Culture, as well as the anthologies The Scary Screen (2010) and A Companion to German Cinema (2012).

Screen Bodies

The Journal of Embodiment, Media Arts, and Technology

  • Alexandridis, Evangelos, and Thomas Klothmann. 1977. “Optogramme der Netzhaut: Wiederaufnahme der Kühne'schen Untersuchungen.” In Periphere Retina, ed. W. Jaeger, 567568. Berlin: Springer.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Anderson, Joseph, and Barbara Fisher. 1978. “The Myth of Persistence of Vision.” Journal of the University Film Association 30 (4): 38.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Anonymous. 1857. “Wonderful—If True.” The Homoeopathic Record 2 (7): 132.

  • Anonymous. 1914. “Image on Her Retina May Show Girl's Slayer.” Washington Times, 25 February: 5.

  • Anonymous. 1925. “Americana.” The American Mercury 6 (21): 3238.

  • Anonymous. 1934. “Camera Reveals Invisible Images on Retina.” Popular Mechanics 62 (1): 79.

  • Bertillon, Alphonse. 1890. La photographie judiciaire. Paris: Gauthier-Villars.

  • Boll, Franz Christian. 1877. “Contributions to the Physiology of Vision and of the Sensation of Colour.” Quarterly Journal of Microscopical Science 17: 226232.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bould, Mark. 2012. Science Fiction. London: Routledge.

  • Brown, Thomas. 1820. Sketch of a System of the Philosophy of the Human Mind. Edinburgh: Bell, Bradfute, Manners and Miller, and Waugh and Innes.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Campion-Vincent, Véronique. 1999. “The Tell-Tale Eye.” Folklore 110: 1324.

  • Carney, Phil. 2010. “Crime, Punishment and the Force of Photographic Spectacle.” In Framing Crime: Cultural Criminology and the Image, ed. Keith J. Hayward and Mike Presdee, 1735. London: Routledge.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ceram, C. W. 1965. Archaeology of the Cinema. New York: Harcourt Brace & World.

  • Charpentier, Augustin. 1888. La lumière et les couleurs au point de vue physiologique. Paris: Baillière.

  • Claretie, Jules. 1897. L'accusateur. Paris: Charpentier.

  • Connor, Steve. 1996. “Small Wonder.” Sunday Times, 21 July: 1.

  • Crary, Jonathan. 1990. Techniques of the Observer: On Vision and Modernity in the Nineteenth Century. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

  • Daston, Lorraine, and Peter Galison. 1992. “The Image of Objectivity.” Representations 40: 81128.

  • Della Porta, Giambattista. 1658. Natural Magick. London: Thomas Young and Samuel Speed.

  • Evans, Arthur B. 1993. “Optograms and Fiction: Photo in a Dead Man's Eye.” Science Fiction Studies 20 (3): 341361.

  • Faraday, Michael. 1831. “On a Peculiar Class of Optical Deceptions.” Journal of the Royal Institution 1 (2): 205223.

  • Gamgee, Arthur. 1877. “Kühne's Researches on Photo-Chemical Processes in the Retina.” Nature 15: 296.

  • Giraud-Teulon, Félix. 1881. La vision et ses anomalies: cours théorique et pratique sur la physiologie et les affections fonctionnelles de l'appareil de la vue. Paris: Baillière.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Goulet, Andrea. 2006. Optiques: The Science of the Eye and the Birth of Modern French Fiction. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

  • Gunning, Tom. 1995. “Tracing the Individual Body: Photography, Detectives, and Early Cinema.” In Cinema and the Invention of Modern Life, ed. Leo Charney and Vanessa R. Schwartz, 1545. Berkeley: University of California Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hackwood, R. M. 1857. “Impressions on the Eye.” Notes and Queries 4: 268269.

  • Harrison, Richard. 1949. Scotland Yard. New York: Ziff-Davis.

  • Ings, Simon. 2008. The Eye: A Natural History. London: Bloomsbury.

  • Jarvis, Stan. 1994. Essex Murder Casebook. Newbury: Countryside Books.

  • Jay, Bill. 1981. “Images in the Eyes of the Dead.” British Journal of Photography 128: 124127, 132–135.

  • Kipling, Rudyard. 1895. “At the End of the Passage.” In Life's Handicap, 183212. London: Macmillan.

  • Knight, Arthur. 1957. The Liveliest Art: A Panoramic History of the Movies. New York: New American Library.

  • Kühne, Wilhelm. 1877a. “Zur Photochemie der Netzhaut.” Verhandlungen des naturhistorisch-medicinischen Vereins zu Heidelberg 1: 484492.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kühne, Wilhelm. 1877b. “Vorläufige Mittheilung über optographische Versuche.” Centralblatt für die medicinischen Wissenschaften 15 (3): 3335.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Mann, William A. 1944. “Direct Utilization of the Eye As a Camera.” Transactions of the American Ophthalmological Society 42: 495508.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Marey, Étienne-Jules. 1895. Movement. Trans. Eric Pritchard. London: Heinemann.

  • Münsterberg, Hugo. 1916. The Photoplay: A Psychological Study. New York: Appleton.

  • Phéline, Christian. 1985. L'image accusatrice. Paris: Cahiers de la Photographie.

  • Plateau, Joseph. 1832. “Sur un nouveau genre d'illusion d'optique.” Correspondance mathématique et physique 7: 365368.

  • Ramsaye, Terry. 1926. A Million and One Nights: A History of the Motion Picture. New York: Simon and Schuster.

  • Roget, Peter Mark. 1825. “Explanation of an Optical Deception in the Appearance of the Spokes of a Wheel Seen Through Vertical Apertures.” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London 114: 131140.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Spottiswoode, Raymond. 1963. Film and Its Techniques. Berkeley: University of California Press.

  • Stewart, Garrett. 2006. “Vitagraphic Time.” Biography 29 (1): 159192.

  • Talbot, Frederick. 1912. Moving Pictures: How They Are Made and Worked. London: Heinemann.

  • Talbot, William Henry Fox. 1844. The Pencil of Nature. London: Longman, Brown, Green & Longmans.

  • Thomson, James S. 1863. “Photography and Murder.” The Photographic News 7: 226227.

  • Van Dijck, José. 2008. “Future Memories: The Construction of Cinematic Hindsight.” Theory, Culture & Society 25 (3): 7187.

  • Vernois, Maxime. 1870. “Étude photographique sur la rétine des sujets assassinés.” Revue photographique des hôpitaux de Paris 2: 7382.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Villiers de l'Isle-Adam, Jean-Marie Philippe-Auguste, comte de. 1867. “Claire Lenoir.” Revue des Lettres et des arts 1 (1–8): 1–9, 29–42, 57–67, 85–95, 113–123, 141–150, 169–176, and 197207.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Wade, Nicholas. 2005. Perception and Illusion: Historical Perspectives. New York: Springer.

  • Wertheimer, Max. 1912. “Experimentelle Studien über das Sehen von Bewegung.” Zeitschrift für Psychologie 61 (1): 161265.

  • Wildey, Alexander Gascoigne. 1889. “Dr. Gabriel's Experiment.” Temple Bar 87: 192199.

  • Young, Thomas. 1807. A Course of Lectures on Natural Philosophy and the Mechanical Arts. 2 vols. London: Johnson.

  • Anonymous. 1912. The Discovery of Dr. Mitchoff (La découverte du docteur Mitchoff). France.

  • Argento, Dario. 1971. Four Flies on Grey Velvet (4 mosche di velluto grigio). Italy.

  • Hilliyer, Lambert. 1936. The Invisible Ray. USA.

  • Naim, Omar. 2004. The Final Cut. USA.

  • Niccol, Andrew. 2018. Anon. UK.

  • Sonnenfeld, Barry. 1999. Wild Wild West. USA.

Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 281 281 13
Full Text Views 20 20 0
PDF Downloads 23 23 0