The art and science of exploration: A study of genre, vision and visual representation in nineteenth century journals and reports of Australian inland exploration

Heckenberg, Kerry (2002). The art and science of exploration: A study of genre, vision and visual representation in nineteenth century journals and reports of Australian inland exploration PhD Thesis, School of English, Media Studies and Art History, The University of Queensland.

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Author Heckenberg, Kerry
Thesis Title The art and science of exploration: A study of genre, vision and visual representation in nineteenth century journals and reports of Australian inland exploration
School, Centre or Institute School of English, Media Studies and Art History
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2002
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Margaret Maynard
Total pages 510
Collection year 2002
Language eng
Subjects 430101 History - Australian
L
419901 Art History and Appreciation
750901 Understanding Australia's past
Formatted abstract This thesis analyses issues concerning genre, vision and visual representation in reports and published journals of nineteenth century Australian inland exploration. The methodology draws on work in genre theory, semiotics and cognitive science and develops valuable aspects of the work of E. H. Gombrich in Art and Illusion (1960) and Bernard Smith in European Vision and the South Pacific (1960) while critically evaluating it. Particularly important is the stress of both on the importance of patterns of thinking (or conceptual schemas) along with pictorial schemas in picture production. Here there are parallels with genre theory. Using the concept of genre as a primary analytical tool, the thesis demonstrates that generic expectations and requirements on the part of both explorers and exploration artists and their audience are important in determining the form, content and evaluation of visual material in exploration journals and reports. Especially significant is the requirement for "pleasurable instruction" deriving from Horace, that was prevalent in eighteenth century travel literature. As critical reviews attest, this continued to be an important generic criterion in nineteenth century travel writing, including exploration journals.

By examining the visual representations in exploration journals and reports produced between 1820 and 1897, differing responses to the demand for information and pleasure are demonstrated. These responses are shown to be influenced by technological developments such as new printing techniques, increasing specialisation and professionalisation in both science and art, and changes in the nature of the audience for exploration writing and art. Thomas Mitchell is a major figure in this analysis because of his noteworthy success in combining appropriate information and pleasure, especially in his first journal of exploration published in 1838. His achievement is analysed in relation to his predecessors, Oxley and Sturt, and successors such as Grey, Eyre, Leichhardt and Becker. The complexities of generic change in the second half of the century are demonstrated by examining journals such as those by Stuart, Warburton, Forrest and Giles plus the publications of the Horn Expedition of 1894 in relation to cultural, intellectual and political developments. Of principal concern are the developing requirements of professional and popular science, the impact of evolutionary theory, the influence of the romantic adventure novel, and the late and variable uptake of photography in Australian exploration journals.

Issues related to the complexities of the relationship between vision, knowledge and power in the exploration journals and reports are also examined. The importance of specific criteria in considerations of accuracy is one theme. Also of concern are variable attitudes to vision suggested by differences in reliance on visual images, the relationship of the visual and the verbal in the journals and reports, and uncertainties about vision revealed in commentary on phenomena such as mirages. Overall, this thesis offers an alternative both to the linear account of scientific triumph evident in the argumentative structure of European Vision and to the narrow reductiveness and solipsism of some recent ideological approaches to exploration art and vision. It demonstrates the importance of considering the socio-cultural, conceptual and material aspects of visual communication in exploration journals and reports, producing an enhanced understanding of the visual material included in them and the role this played in the production of knowledge and meaning.
Keyword Australia -- Description and travel -- Sources.
Australia -- History -- 1788-1900 -- Sources.
Scientific expeditions -- Australia.
Additional Notes The author has given permission for this thesis to be made open access.

 
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