King’s College Research Seminar series in the history of science, technology and medicine:
Professor Clare Pettitt
Mermaids amongst the Cables: The Abstracted Body and the Telegraphic Touch
Wednesday 9 October at 5-6.30pm in S8.08, Strand Building.
This paper uses two paintings of mermaids form the 1880s to think about the emergence in the late nineteenth century of what Paul Virilio has termed ‘tele-contact’: Evelyn De Morgan’s ‘The Sea Maidens’ (sometimes called ‘The Sea Sisters’) of 1885-6, and Edward Burne Jones’s ‘The Depths of the Sea’, which was exhibited in 1887.
Reading these paintings in the context of the rapidly ramifying underwater cable network, the compromised material form of the cables themselves, and the much-reported dredging and sounding experiments of the Challenger Expedition of the 1870s, the paper suggests that new communications technologies, new scientific information, and an ever-widening contact network were driving aesthetic form into new patternings and stretchinesses, new concepts of surface and depth, and new kinds of coding.
All are welcome.