Artificial Light in the Nineteenth Century: Candlelight and Gaslight; or the Individual and the Network

Richard Leahy


This article draws on discussions surrounding the evolution of artificial light during the nineteenth century, and its influences on literature. An interdisciplinary examination of the extent to which artificial light influenced individual self-identity within the period, and in turn a collective social conscience, it analyses the role that gaslight had on formulating what Tony Bennett terms a ‘self-regulating society’ of vision and consumption. Furthermore, it will discuss the ways in which the candle was invested with a sense of agency, enabling it to gain what can be described as ‘autonomy’ from its position within a fundamentally interconnected network.

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