While painters have always lifted particular places out of their dwelling and transported them elsewhere, paintings were time-consuming to produce, relatively difficult to transport and one-of-a-kind. The multiplication of photographs especially took place with the introduction of the half-tone plate in the 1880s that made possible the mechanical reproduction of photographs in newspapers, periodicals, books and advertisements. Photography became coupled to consumer capitalism and the globe was now offered ‘in limitless quantities, figures, landscapes, events which had not previously been utilised either at all, or only as pictures for one customer. With capitalism’s arrangement of the world as a ‘department store’, ‘the proliferation and circulation of representations … achieved a spectacular and virtually inescapable global magnitude’.

Source: The Tourist Gaze 3.0 by John Urry, Jonas Larsen

Does the bold part just mean "was important"? What exactly does the bold part mean?

  • Representation by art and photos became a very big thing. Important, true, but the sentence doesn't say that. Spectacular means very big, and magnitude means size. Sep 10, 2023 at 0:35
  • You used the "word-meaning" tag, which is "for questions which a dictionary cannot answer about the meaning of a single word." Which word do you not understand? Sep 10, 2023 at 2:16
  • As there is no real connotation of effort and success in achieved a ... magnitude, the word "achieved" may/should be replaced by "reached".
    – Graffito
    Sep 10, 2023 at 8:31
  • It's an example of hyperbole, remove a spectacular and virtually inescapable and the meaning will become clearer.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Sep 10, 2023 at 9:55
  • fullbase1.com/entry/… That's why you asked about the meaning of the reality of reflection! You wanted to know if the answer to the quiz is "Art held up a mirror to the world". You should have said.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Sep 10, 2023 at 10:04

1 Answer 1


"the proliferation and circulation of representations [..] achieved a spectacular and virtually inescapable global magnitude"

It means that this proliferation was impressive and apparent by most on a global level.

I can't help but think that the word 'spectacular', normally used simply in the sense of 'impressive' or 'incredible', in the context of images and mechanical reproduction has the more direct meaning of relating to an image: the word comes from the Latin spectaculum, meaning 'show' or, indeed, 'spectacle', and is related to 'sight'; a sight to behold. Think also of the seminal work The Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord.
In this light, 'spectacular' seems like a slight tongue-in-cheek word choice on the part of the author.

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