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1 - Windows: Looking In, Looking Out, Breaking Through

from Part One - Doors, Windows, Entries

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 March 2012

Gillian Beer
Affiliation:
University of Cambridge
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Summary

Windows: all about us, unremarkable; or remarkable mainly in their scientific extensions, as microscopes, telescopes, X-rays, CAT scans. Here it is the unremarked I want to examine: domestic windows, and some of their meanings in literature.

What is a window? framed space? A liminal connection between inner and outer? an aperture that reveals a scene beyond, or a scene within? an impermeable membrane? security against weather and intruders? or the source of replenishing light? Doors police the threshold, windows relate the outside world to the interior. But windows, particularly in cinema, as often suggest spying and seclusion as they do an opening into the contingent world outside the self. Hitchcock's Rear Window is the classic example. The act of photography funnels sight through an aperture upon a scene at once distanced and held, beyond the power of touch. Paintings may present themselves as windows into a landscape, as we experience in Corot or in Bruegel, or the figures in them may crowd forward, bulging out of the frame towards us, as if emerging through a window. That effect is found in Pre-Raphaelite work, for example, in Rossetti's picture in the Fitzwilliam Museum of a girl peering out of a lattice window. My materials and my argument here, though, are concerned not so much with visual art as with literature and with the unframed images that writing conjures in the reader's mind.

Type
Chapter
Information
Thinking on Thresholds
The Poetics of Transitive Spaces
, pp. 3 - 16
Publisher: Anthem Press
Print publication year: 2011

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