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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The Feszty Panorama, spatial politics, and the crisis of modern bodies : founding and finding modern Hungary in fin de siecle Budapest Barenscott, Dorothy Lyly Juliana


In 1896, Arpad Feszty's panorama Arrival of the Conquering Hungarians into the Carpathian Basin in 896, was among the most visited and popular attractions at the Budapest World's Fair—an international exhibition set to simultaneously celebrate a millenium of Hungarian history and the themes of technological progress and modernity. Exploring the visual and spatial dynamics of the panorama medium, this thesis investigates the significance of the Feszty Panorama in relation to specific claims about the origin of modern Hungary and within the nexus of concerns around ethnicity, liberal politics, notions of the modern subject, and definitions of social and political power within the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The thesis concentrates on three inter-related areas. First, the strategic spaces marked out by the panoramic field of vision are explored as a mode of collective spectatorship that, in placing viewers at the center of a 360 degree view, functioned to liberate human vision to a boundless canvas while simultaneously imprisoning it within a frameless construction. Within this context, the notion of virtuality is raised, not as a false reality, but a space of possibility where national imaginings and historical records could be challenged and reconfigured. Second, drawing on contemporary theories around "nomadism," this thesis examines how the themes and implications of the glorified nomadic past of Magyar settlers in 896, and conjured up by the panorama's imagery, were linked to conflicted liberal discourses in 19t h century Hungarian nation building. These, emphasizing freedom of movement, leadership through coalition, cultural miscegenation, and technological innovation as a means to domination, disrupted and called into question traditional models of social and political organization within the problematic Austro-Hungarian Empire. Third, this thesis suggests that these discourses were activated by the visual forms and spaces of the panorama itself, both in terms of the specificity of the events surrounding the Budapest World's Fair in 1896, but also in terms of the larger history and theory of the panorama— that is, its status as a mass medium which challenged and blurred the boundaries between artistic genres, communities of viewers, claims to knowledge, and other technologies of vision such as photography and early cinema.

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