Argues that the photographic negative gives a new way of understanding Victorian debates surrounding origins and copies as well as reality and representation.
Victorian Negatives examines the intersection between Victorian photography and literary culture, and argues that the development of the photographic negative played an instrumental role in their confluence. The negative is a technology that facilitates photographic reproduction by way of image inversion, and Susan E. Cook argues that this particular photographic technology influenced the British realist novel and literary celebrity culture, as authors grappled with the technology of inversion and reproduction in their lives and works. The book analyzes literary works by Charles Dickens, Arthur Conan Doyle, E. W. Hornung, Cyril Bennett, Robert Louis Stevenson, Oscar Wilde, Thomas Hardy, and Bram Stoker, and puts readings of those works into conversations with distinct photographic forms, including the daguerreotype, solarization, forensic photography, common cabinet cards, double exposures, and postmortem portraiture. In addition to literary texts, the book analyzes photographic discourses from letters and public writings of photographers and the nineteenth-century press, as well as discussions and debates surrounding Victorian celebrity authorship. The book's focus on the negative both illuminates an oft-marginalized part of the history of photography and demonstrates the way in which this history is central to Victorian literary culture.
Susan E. Cook is Associate Professor of English at Southern New Hampshire University.
"…richly evocative … In encouraging its readers to imagine having never seen the material object of a negative, not having had to imagine the eventual reversal of its lights and darks, Victorian Negatives conjures myriad implications of and attachments to the negative as both material object and immaterial realm." — Victorian Studies
"This is a fascinating and extremely specific discussion of the ways in which photography, more precisely negative technology, was 'culturally embedded' in the Victorian era. It is this precision that makes the book most compelling; as Cook herself notes, most literary scholars treat photography as a monolithic whole, but she offers a welcome specificity." — Antonia Losano, author of The Victorian Painter in Victorian Literature