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Multiplying WorldsRomanticism, Modernity, and the Emergence of Virtual Reality$
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Peter Otto

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199567676

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199567676.001.0001

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The Panopticon

The Panopticon

(p.45) 2 The Panopticon
Multiplying Worlds

Peter Otto (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Bentham's proposals for penal reform were published in Panopticon; or, The Inspection House (written in 1786) and its two Postscripts (1790, 1791). Focusing on these works, and diverging from accounts of the Panopticon that draw heavily on Michel Foucault's Discipline and Punish, this chapter argues that the optical environment of the panopticon (including the fictitious entities, recording devices, and communication systems that play a role within it) constructs a virtual reality that, by eclipsing the ‘real’ and re-contextualizing the prisoner's actions, provides a new way of shaping behaviour. It concludes with a discussion of later stages of Bentham's panopticon idea, evident in his unpublished plans for a theme park, to be called Panopticon Hill, which placed the Panopticon Penitentiary alongside: a Panopticon Tavern, complete with optical entertainments; a ‘Sotimion or establishment for the preservation of female delicacy’; and a Nothotrophium or asylum for the innocent offspring of clandestine love.

Keywords:   Jeremy Bentham, Michel Foucault, penal reform, Panopticon, Panopticon Hill, Panopticon Tavern, virtual reality, fictitious entity

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