phantasmagorical

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phantasmagorical

Post by Vanmour » Fri Oct 14, 2005 3:18 am

My dear wordsmiths, As I teach often in the Pere Lachaise cemetery and end up at Etienne Robertson's tomb, the person who I thought coined the term Phantasmagoria, I am now not so sure. In fact, after reading at a recent book on the history of Paris where the term was invoked many times, I am not even sure I understand its meaning. So...

What do you think it means?

How would you use it your writing?

What are the origins of the term? From England or from Robertson in Paris at the end of the 18th century?

Many thanks,
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Post by Bobinwales » Fri Oct 14, 2005 8:08 am

Teaching in a cemetery sounds dead boring to me, but I suppose the students stay quiet. You could say that the process would be a dreamlike state, with events shifting in front of you as though they are really happening, phantasmagorical in fact.
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Post by podictionary » Fri Oct 14, 2005 2:20 pm

The OED tells me that "Phantasmagoria" appeared first in London in the "Gentleman's Magazine" in June of 1802 and was "a name invented for an exhibition of optical illusions..." for which the Greek roots run to the same roots for "phantom" and "agora" (meeting place). However, they go on to say that the word's inventor "probably only wanted a mouth-filling and startling term, and may have fixed on -agoria without any reference to the Greek lexicon".

I like this word and I think I will do a piece on it eventually in my audio word-a-day at http://www.podictionary.com

The earliest meaning seemed to be "optical exibitions" with "magic lanterns" but within 30 years or so the meaning had shifted to a succession of shifting images. The OED's most recent citation is well over 100 years old so I looked also at Merriam Webster and they have similar definitions still. It tends toward supernatural optical effects and visions.
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Post by please » Fri Oct 14, 2005 9:27 pm

What is the meaning of "teach" in "I teach often in the Pere Lachaise cemetery"? I have visited the site a few times myself, and I haven't seen many verbs in action there, let alone "teaching". Maybe I am getting older.
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Post by Vanmour » Sat Oct 15, 2005 12:40 am

No lack of interesting responses from all you wordsmithies.

1. Teaching in a cemetery sounds dead boring..... Bien dit. Well said, though teaching funerary art in the world's first cemetery is actually quite a remarkable experience.

2. At the risk of sparking anti-French rhetoric, though the OED states this term started in England in 1802, the French sources state [see one example below] that the term was started in France at the end of the eighteenth century and that Etienne Robertson was the first person to coin this. Could it have jumped the channel from France to England and then end up being re-imported back into France?

From La Tresor de la Langue Franciase informatise:
fantôme. Étymol. et Hist. [1787 ds BL.-W.3-5]; 1799 phantasmagorie « art de faire voir des fantômes par illusion d'optique » (MOLARD, Descr. Mach. et proc., t. II, p. 45, 17 mars ds BRUNOT t. 9, p. 1212); 1801 fantasmagorie (S. MERCIER, Néol., t. 1, p. 259); 1810 « spectacle fantastique et surnaturel » (STAËL, Allemagne, t. 1, p. 70 : les événements réels passent devant leurs yeux comme de la fantasmagorie). Dér. de fantasme* avec une terminaison que certains justifient par allégorie* « représentation plastique utilisant l'allégorie » (BL.-W.1-5; FEW t. 8, p. 365a), d'autres (DG; v. aussi EWFS2), de manière moins probable, par le gr. , « parler ». Fréq. abs. littér. : 136.

3. To Teach in....

One can teach in a classroom, teach in a school, or teach in a cemetery if one is teaching funerary art.

And it ain't dead boring neither.....
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Post by spiritus » Sat Oct 15, 2005 1:55 am

Vanmour, though I'm not a "wordsmith", and more then likely I may be a word and language subversive; I offer the following in the spirit of, "liberty, equality, and fraternity". Hope it's useful.

Etienne Gaspard (Roberts) Robertson did not coin the word phantasmagoria, nor was he the inventor of the "magic latern".

The word was coined in 1802 by an exhibitor of optical illusions in London. His name was Baron M. Philipstal and it was his "magic lantern" which produced special effects on a screen which were then considered marvelous.

The final part of the word is based on the Greek verb ageirein (to gather or to assemble).

Phantasmagoria
[f. Gr. PHANTASM + (?) assembly, place of assembly.
(I suspect M. Philipstal, the inventor of the word, wanted a "supernatural" sounding and startling term, and may have fixed on -agoria without any reference to the Greek lexicon.)]

The earliest usage of the word phantasmagoria meant an exhibition of optical illusions produced chiefly by means of the magic lantern, first exhibited in London in 1802. (Sometimes erroneously applied to the mechanism used.)

In Philipstal's ‘phantasmagoria’ the figures were made rapidly to increase and decrease in size, to advance and retreat, dissolve, vanish, and pass into each other, in a manner then considered "phantom or spirit-like".

This is from YourDictionary.com, which I include merely for its language irreverance and Jungian-slips, so to speak:
Today's Word:
Phantasmagoria (noun)

Pronunciation: [fæn-tæz-mê-'go-ri-yê]

Definition: An exhibition or bizarre assemblage of images, usually, that constantly change.

Usage: The adjective is "phantasmagoric" or " phantasmagorical."

Suggested Usage: "The children's Halloween play was a phantasmagoria of color, lilting voices, dancing, and hilariously misspoken lines." Or, on a bleaker note, "The funeral was a phantasmagoria I could hardly comprehend—so many flowers, people I barely knew coming and going, strange services, voices, and music."

Etymology: A name invented for the optical illusions of the magic lantern first exhibited in London in 1802. The origin is hazy. It could be from Greek phantasma "apparition, phantom" + (possibly) agora "assembly, market-place." However, it might just as be a compound of "phantasma" with "gory" and the suffix "-ia," added to make it more haunting and authentic. (Our gratitude is owed today to Michele Kayen for sharing a favorite word with us.)

–Dr. Language, YourDictionary.com

http://www.yourdictionary.com/wotd/wotd ... tasmagoria
1831 BREWSTER Nat. Magic iv. 80 An exhibition depending on these principles was brought out by M. Philipstal in 1802, under the name of the Phantasmagoria... Spectres, skeletons, and terrific figures..suddenly advanced upon the spectators, becoming larger as they approached them, and finally vanished by appearing to sink into the ground. 1883 Encycl. Brit. XV. 207 Philipstal gave a sensation to his magic lantern entertainment by lowering unperceived, between the audience and the stage, a sheet of gauze, upon which fell the vivid moving shadows of phantasmagoria.
Etienne Robertson (his 'showbiz' name), seems to have derived the greater benefits of Baron M. Philipstal's word and gadget:
In the late eighteenth century several showmen used the lantern to produce horror shows. These were known as "Phantasmagoria" shows. A variety of horrific images were projected to frighten the audience, examples being ghosts projected on smoke to give a frightening appearance and images that would move around the walls. Often the projector was behind a translucent screen, out of the view of the audience. This greatly added to the mystery of the show.

Etienne Gaspard Robertson (1763-1837)

One of the most famous Phantasmagoria showmen was Etienne Gaspard Robertson (1763-1837). He came from Liege, Belgium and his real name was Robert, but curiously enough he thought an English stage name would help his act.

"My family name is... Robert. The word son is added according to usage in the Low Countries when father and son are both living currently and in the same place. Son in English and Flemish and soon in Dutch have the same meaning…..I have been known as Robertson in so many places and for so many years, that I felt that to remove the last syllable, especially in foreign countreis, would have rendered me unrecognisable."
Robinson on Robertson: The Ten Year Book, The Magic Lantern Society 1986.

Often the projector was behind a translucent screen, out of the view of the audience. This greatly added to the mystery of the show.

Robertson used a special lantern on wheels, which he called a Phantascope or Fantascope. By moving the projector backwards and forwards he could rapidly alter the size of the images on the screen, much like a modern zoom lens. The device was very cleverly designed to keep the picture in focus and at a constant brightness as the machine moved back and forth.
He presented his show in Paris, and later took it to Vienna and St. Petersburg.

http://www.magiclantern.org.uk/history5.htm
From the time of its coinage and over the course of two centuries; the word phantasmagoria has varied its usage and apparently has functioned as a noun, verb, and adjective, despite its spelling.
...dark rooms, where spectres from the dead they raise What's the Greek word for all this Goblinstoria?
I have it pat It is Phantasmagoria. Ibid. (end of vol.), An awful sound proclaims a spectre near, And full in sight behold it now appear..Such are the forms Phantasmagoria shows.

1802 Gentlemen's Quarterly Mag. June 544
The Baron is preparing a phantasmagoria at the Pavillion.

1805 MRS. CREEVEY in C. Papers, etc. (1904) I. 67
Phantasmagoria was extended in meaning to similar optical exhibitions, ancient and modern.
The Almighty substituted, for the phantasmagoria intended by the witch, the spirit of Samuel.

1830 SCOTT Demonol. ii. 59
Machines by which phantasmagoria and oracular prestiges were played off...

1834 LYTTON Pompeii II. ix. 1832 GELL
Pompeiana I. v. 98
Its meaning and usage was also stretched to include any shifting series or succession of phantasms or imaginary figures, as seen in a dream or fevered condition, as called up by the imagination, or as created by literary description:
‘The Phantasmagoria’ (title of a series of articles consisting of sketches of imaginary characters).]

[1803 Europ. Mag. XLIII. 186
The army seemed a phantasmagoria.

1835 W. IRVING Newstead Abbey in Crayon Misc.
Such was the phantasmagoria that presented itself for a moment to my imagination...
Milton's genius has filled the atmosphere with a brilliant phantasmagoria of contending angels...

1875 E. WHITE Life in Christ II. xii.
Here the word implies a shifting and changing external scene consisting of many elements.
1822 HAZLITT Table-t. Ser. II. v. (1869) 121 A huddled phantasmagoria of feathers, spangles, etc.

1853 KANE Grinnell Exp. ix.
(1856) 68 The wildest frolic of an opium-eater's revery is nothing to the phantasmagoria of the sky tonight.

1880 SHORTHOUSE J.
Inglesant xxiii, Without was a phantasmagoria of terrible bright colours, and within a mental chaos and disorder without a clue.
There are these references; a phantasmagoric figure, or something compared thereto.
1821 BYRON Vis. Judgm. lxxvii, The man was a phantasmagoria in Himself he was so volatile and thin.
There was no background to form a phantasmagoria deception, since the part plainest to be seen was the figure as it rose and sank above the paling.

1841 MISS MITFORD in L'Estrange Life (1870) III. viii. 130
By the aid of a gas microscope attached to a powerful phantasmagoria lantern the image can be reflected on to a screen.

1873 E. SPON Workshop Receipts Ser. I. 295/1
In respect to the adverb, adjective, etc. functions of this word, we have: phantasmagoriacal (-akl), phantasmagorial (whence -ally adv.), phantasmagorian, phantasmagoric (-grk), phantasmagorical adjs., of, pertaining to, or of the nature of a phantasmagoria; hence, visionary, phantasmal; phantasmagorist, one who produces or exhibits a phantasmagoria. Here are some examples of those word forms from the 19th century:
1823 Blackw. Mag. XIII. 537 Deucalion sees a *phantasmagoriacal shadow of what..forms the history of the ancient world.

1828 SCOTT Jrnl. 17 Apr., In this *phantasmagorial place [London], the objects of the day come and depart like shadows.

1822 Blackw. Mag. XII. 86 A thousand other scenes..come up *phantasmagorially or panorama-wise before us.

1827 Examiner 212/2 The Will-o'-the-wisp is painted..with shadowy and *phantasmagorian power. 1870 Contemp. Rev. XIV. 180 It will ever elude his grasp like..the phantasmagorian images on the canvas.

1818 COLERIDGE in Lit. Rem. (1836) I. 139 All Rabelais' personages are *phantasmagoric allegories. 1883 SYMONDS Shaks. Predec.
i. (1900) 5 The phantasmagoric brilliancy of shows at Court.

1852 HAWTHORNE Blithedale Rom. Pref. (1879) 6 To establish a theatre..where the creatures of his brain may play their
*phantasmagorical antics.

1816 J. LAWRENCE in Monthly Mag. XLII. 298 Whether..it can possibly be worth while..for our chemists, or rather for our "phantasmagorists" to repeat any of the old palingenesian experiments?
And my personal favorite:
"Those arch phantasmagorists, the philosophers who would leave nothing in the universe but their own delusions".

1862 LYTTON Str. Story lxxi
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Post by Vanmour » Sat Oct 15, 2005 2:23 am

So you discount entirely the French claims of the origins of the word?

1799 phantasmagorie « art de faire voir des fantômes par illusion d'optique » (MOLARD, Descr. Mach. et proc., t. II, p. 45, 17 mars ds BRUNOT t. 9, p. 1212)

1801 fantasmagorie (S. MERCIER, Néol., t. 1, p. 259)

Why believe the English-language origins of the word and not the French ones?

"Liberté Egalité Fraternité"
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Post by spiritus » Sat Oct 15, 2005 3:38 am

Vanmour wrote: So you discount entirely the French claims of the origins of the word?

1799 phantasmagorie « art de faire voir des fantômes par illusion d'optique » (MOLARD, Descr. Mach. et proc., t. II, p. 45, 17 mars ds BRUNOT t. 9, p. 1212)

1801 fantasmagorie (S. MERCIER, Néol., t. 1, p. 259)

Why believe the English-language origins of the word and not the French ones?

"Liberté Egalité Fraternité"
Vanmour, I did not discount entirely, or partially, the French claims of the origins of the word. Nor, do I think generally accepted word etymologies are only a matter of one's "belief". I may reject or accept them for any number of reasons I deem significant; other then those stated by linguistic canons.

If I'm not mistaken, M. Philipstal was French.

It should also be noted; despite the human inclination to embrace one form of linguistic chauvinism or another, we should remember; language is a banquet, to which everyone brings a dish.
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Post by Vanmour » Sat Oct 15, 2005 2:19 pm

For what it is worth, the term, Phantasmagoria, predates 1802 in England:

"The technique was taken up, popularized and named as a Phantasmagoria by Paul Philidor [whose real name was Paul de Philipstal] in 1789 who held a show under that name in Berlin in that year (see Heard, 1996; During, 2002: 102) However, the person who is more commonly given the credit for naming and inventing the phantasmagoria in 1798 was the Belgian entertainer Etienne-Gaspard Robertson, who apparently stole the idea from Philidor (see Heard, 1996) and whose shows caused a sensation in Paris in the aftermath of the Revolution (see Quigley, 1948: 778; Castle, 1995: 144ff; Cohen, 1989; During, 2002: 102ff).

From: Kevin Hetherington, "Memories of capitalism: cities, phantasmagoria and arcades," in International Journal of Urban and Regional Research Volume 29 Issue 1 Page 187 - March 2005
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Post by spiritus » Sat Oct 15, 2005 10:56 pm

Vanmour, thank you for that interesting addition.
It would appear that the common practice among entertainers of taking a stage name, predates the Hollywood tradition.

It somehow seems appropriate, that the word, phantasmagoria has a shifting, hazy and elusive origin, that encompasses France, England, Belgium, and Germany. Yes?

So tell me, which version will you be teaching in the future?
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Post by Vanmour » Sun Oct 16, 2005 4:10 am

T'is an interesting word and it has been fun to see people take it on. As you rightly point out, it is a word which invites alot of slippage in its definition. I will be curious how podictionary approaches it for his listeners. I suggest that you tackle this word on 31 October-Halloween.

After all of this I am not sure I actually understand it or could use it comfortably in a sentence. So for the moment, when I find myself infront of Etienne Robertson's tomb in Pere Lachaise, I think I will recount the shifting story of Phantasmagoria.

By-the-way, there are some wonderful engravings of Robertson's Phantasmagoria Magic-lantern images.

best.
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