Spaceflight as the (Trans)National Spectacle: Transforming Technological Sublime and Panoramic Realism in Early IMAX Space Films

  • Kornelia BoczkowskaEmail author
Part of the Second Language Learning and Teaching book series (SLLT)


In this paper I present and discuss the relationship between the technological sublime, panoramic realism and American identity, as represented in some of the most remarkable space films produced by IMAX: Hail Columbia (1982), The Dream Is Alive (1985) and Destiny in Space (1994). While continuing the U.S. science documentary traditions of visualizing space-related concepts, the productions depict the missions of NASA’s Space Shuttle programme and its memorable moments, such as the first launch of Discovery or the crews’ stay on the shuttle. Their form, best exemplified by the late 1970s and 1980s space science documentaries, relied on a stunningly realist format and a mediated experience of the astronomical as well as technological and dynamic sublime, largely present in the U.S. and global space imagery. Particularly the latter concept, as developed by Marx (1964), Kasson (1976) or Nye (1994), is defined as a distinctively American formation and “an essentially religious feeling,” which has become “self-justifying parts of a national destiny, just as the natural sublime once undergirded the rhetoric of manifest destiny” (Nye, 1994, pp. 13, 282). Simultaneously, however, whilst imbued with some typically American space-related values and conventions, including the frontier myth or White’s Overview Effect, the IMAX films tend to perpetuate an intrinsically transnational and multicultural image of spaceflight through demythisizing the concept of American transcendental state centered around the idea of exceptionalism and destiny in space (Sage, 2014).


IMAX space films Sublime Technological sublime Panoramic realism 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Wydział Anglistyki UAMAdam Mickiewicz UniversityPoznańPoland

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