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Spaces of Wonder, Wonder of Space: Encountering the Eighteenth Century Through Image, Object, and Text

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Title: Spaces of Wonder, Wonder of Space: Encountering the Eighteenth Century Through Image, Object, and Text
Author: Smylitopoulos, Christina
Department: School of Fine Art and Music
Abstract: Comprised of three distinct cascades that culminate to drain Lake Erie into Lake Ontario, Niagara Falls occupied a significant place in eighteenth-century contemplations of natural wonder. More often imagined than witnessed in this period, wonder-seekers depended upon the accounts of those who had experienced firsthand this hydrological, geological, and aesthetic phenomenon. When confronted with the unparalleled sight of a “vast and prodigious Cadence of Water” the Franciscan missionary Fr. Louis Hennepin (1626-ca. 1705) attempted to capture “This wonderful Downfall” in both text and image, resulting in an object that over the course of the eighteenth century was appropriated and re-appropriated and appeared across the strata of print culture. This preoccupation with the wonders of nature can be tied to engagements with wonder more generally. Despite Samuel Johnson’s disdain for wonder as “the effect of novelty upon ignorance” eighteenth-century writers, artists, philosophers, historians, travellers, and scientists sought wonder wherever they looked and what they found manifested across a broad spectrum visual and material culture. Drawn from the permanent holdings of Archival & Special Collections of the University of Guelph McLaughlin Library, the Barker Museum of Veterinary History, and the Bachinski/Chu Print Study Collection, curated by graduate and undergraduate students, and installed across teaching, learning, and research spaces on the campus, this collaborative exhibition and companion catalogue takes as its inspiration encounters with wonder across image, object, and text. Whether found by Hennepin in the vastness of the Falls, by Edmund Burke in “the wonders of minuteness,” or by the dubious spectacles of wonder-workers, wonder could inspire reflections that had in previous eras been reserved for contemplations of God. Contributors: Lauren Beck, Sarah Bennett, Lisa Cox, Niki Ferraro, Ronique Gillis, Alexandra Hartstone, Kathryn Harvey, Mikayla Heller, Christina Ionescu, Kevin James, Ross Jennings, Corey Madore, Fergus Maxwell, Melissa McAfee, Sarah Oatley, Jennifer Oldham, Daniel O’Quinn, Kristyn Pacione, Sandra Parmegiani, Chelsea Reid, Desiree Scholtz, Christina Smylitopoulos, Josie Thomas, Ahmri Vandeborne, Nicholas VanExan
Date: 2018
Rights: © 2018 Christina Smylitopoulos, Editor. All rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or in any means—by electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise—without prior written permission.
Related Publications: Smylitopoulos, Christina, ed. Spaces of Wonder, Wonder of Space: Encountering the Eighteenth Century Through Image, Object, and Text. Guelph: University of Guelph, 2018.

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