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Screen Culture and the Social Question 1880-1914

Screen Culture and the Social Question 1880-1914

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Screen Culture and the Social Question 1880-1914

Edited by: Ludwig Vogl-Bienek, Richard Crangle

In this volume sixteen international scholars address the issues of Screen Culture and the Social Question from different perspectives.

Publication date: 2013
Total pages: 276
ISBN: 9780 86196 709 4
Price: £ 20.00


Public performances using the magic or optical lantern became a widespread feature of the social fabric in the 19th century. The “Art of Projection” established the screen as a regular and central feature of cultural life. By 1900 a vast number of lantern slide sets (and later also films) were used in many countries, presenting images of slum life and destitution and contributing to controversial discourses on the Social Question like the ongoing temperance campaigns. Their impact in the public sphere has hardly been explored in either social or media history.

In this volume sixteen international scholars address the issues of Screen Culture and the Social Question from different perspectives. Drawing on a rich variety of primary sources they investigate the impact of the lantern and cinematograph in public lectures, entertainments, church services and electoral campaigns. They examine how social reformers like Jacob Riis, as well as charitable organisations, raised public awareness of living conditions of the poor and destitute. They discuss use of visually shocking lectures and adaptations of sentimental stories, like those of Victorian celebrity George R. Sims, to argue for social reform and encourage the audience to help themselves and others. Case studies demonstrate uses of projection for education and entertainment of the poor, and as an agent of social prevention in the context of health and lifestyle. Finally approaches to the ‘hidden history’ of screen culture are outlined as a basis for an internationally agreed research agenda, including an introduction to the LUCERNA Magic Lantern Web Resource.


Introduction by Richard Crangle and Ludwig Vogl-Bienek

Part I: Screen Culture and the Public Sphere – Raising Awareness of the Living Conditions of the Poor

Martin Loiperdinger

The Social Impact of Screen Culture 1880-1914

Stephen Bottomore

The Lantern and Cinematograph for Political Persuasion before WW1: Towards an Introduction and Typology

Ludwig Vogl-Bienek

Slum Life and Living Conditions of the Poor in Fictional and Documentary Lantern Slide Sets: a Lantern Lecture

Joss Marsh and David Francis

“The Poetry of Poverty”: The Magic Lantern and the Ballads of George R. Sims

Bonnie Yochelson

The Jacob A. Riis Collection: Photographs for Books and Lantern Lectures

Caroline Henkes

Early Christmas Films in the Tradition of the Magic Lantern

Part II: The Use of Lantern Shows, Photography and Early Films for Social Prevention by Charity Organisations

Judith Thissen

Education or Entertainment? Early Cinema as a Social Force in New York’s Immigrant Jewish Community

Karen Eifler

Feeding and Entertaining the Poor: Salvation Army Lantern Exhibitions Combined with Food Distribution in Britain and Germany

Annemarie McAllister

“To assist in the pictorial teaching of Temperance”: the use of the Magic Lantern in the Band of Hope

Marina Dahlquist

Health Entrepreneurs: American Screen Practices in the 1910s

Michelle Lamunière

Sentiment and Science in Harvard University’s Social Museum

Part III: Approaches to the Hidden History of Screen Culture

Frank Gray

Engaging with the Magic Lantern’s History

Ine van Dooren

Our Magic Lantern Heritage: Archiving a Past Medium that Nearly Never Was

Richard Crangle

The Lucerna Magic Lantern Web Resource


Ian Christie

How Does it Feel? Hidden Histories and the Elusive User Experience


Ludwig M. Vogl-Bienek is senior researcher of the Screen1900 research group at the University of Trier, and a founding member of the magic lantern ensemble illuminago which performs lantern shows internationally. He published widely on the art of projection and on screen culture in the 19th century, including his dissertation Lichtspiele im Schatten der Armut (forthcoming 2013). He co-curated the DVD Screening the Poor 1888–1914 and initiated the international conference Screen Culture and the Social Question at the German Historical Intstitute London in December 2011.

Richard Crangle is Research Officer of the Magic Lantern Society and former editor of its New Magic Lantern Journal (2001–10). He co-edited The Encyclopaedia of the Magic Lantern (2001) and Realms of Light: Uses and Perceptions of the Magic Lantern (2005), translated Laurent Mannoni’s Great Art of Light and Shadow (2000), and has contributed to several collections on early cinema. He is currently researching the output of the C19th-C20th British lantern slide trade and working on the Lucerna web resource.

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