Studies in Romanticism
The camera obscura could be considered a “black box” of Romanticism. Unpacking it can give access to thoughts and transatlantic interactions that have been lost since their initial appearance hundreds of years ago. One of the main recovery efforts that helped locate this remarkable black box began with Sarah Kofman’s study on the recurrent invocations during the nineteenth-century of the camera obscura as a theoretical model.1 Kofman brought to the fore the critical importance of this black box by showing how its image-making function deeply impacted the exploration of cognitive and epistemological questions in authors such as Rousseau, Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud. She observed that, over time, the meaning conveyed by the camera obscura shifted from transparency to opacity. Varying interpretations of the camera obscura had at least one thing in common, though. They manifested, often unwittingly, a fetishist disposition in European scientific thinking.
Murphy, Kieran, "Haiti and the Black Box of Romanticism" (2017). French & Italian Faculty Contributions. 1.