Kirstyn Leuner, “Novel Technologies: The Holyrood Chapel Diorama in James Hogg’s Confessions of a Justified Sinner” (pp. 437–461)
This essay argues that there is a diorama remediated within James Hogg’s experimental Scottish Gothic novel, The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824). Invented in 1822, the diorama was a popular multimedia theater experience comprised of a mural-sized immersive and realistic painting as well as a printed booklet describing the scene. Together, the view and booklet imaginatively transport the diorama’s audience to the depicted location. The diorama in Hogg’s novel is Louis Daguerre’s “Ruins of Holyrood Chapel, a Moonlight Scene” (1823), which places the viewer within the crumbling abbey at Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh, at night, among the tombs of Scottish nobles and royalty buried there. With its remediated Holyrood diorama, Confessions of a Justified Sinner prompts readers and characters, much like diorama-goers, to test their surroundings and determine where reality ends and the screen of illusion begins. Such reality-testing reveals characters’ and readers’ present moments to be part of, not detached from, the history of the ruined Holyrood Chapel and graveyard, the fractured identity of Scots, and the reception and retelling of their stories. Further, reality-testing draws attention to the media that construct one’s sense of self, the present, and the past, and these include not only the newer technology of the diorama, but also that of the novel in the late-Romantic period.