America's Rome

Volume 2, Catholic and Contemporary Rome

William L. Vance

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This remarkable book examines the impact of Rome on American artists and writers from the earliest days of the new republic to the present.
In Volume I: Classical Rome Vance shows, for example, how the Forum and the Colosseum inspired American thoughts of ideal republics and how the Pantheon presented a pagan challenge to American ideas of divinity, beauty, and sexuality.

In Volume II: Catholic and Contemporary Rome, Vance begins by examining the three foremost Roman Catholic symbols: the bambino, the madonna, and the pope. In the section on contemporary Rome, he addresses American attitudes toward Rome’s earliest attempts at democratization, toward its aristocratic social structures, and toward the political changes that occurred after World War II.
 

"The author deserves high praise. He provides a vast amount of information on literary, artistic, and moral issues and the great procession of Americans who have become Romanized in one degree or another. His own judgements are firm and fresh. He is brilliant on the American sculptors. . . . He is equally good on literary material. There are illuminating comments on conspicuous work. . . . But there is also comment on many less familiar authors. . . . No one can fail to benefit from immersion in this work."—Marcus Cunliffe, American Historical Review
 

"America’s Rome is easily the best—and certainly the most unexpected—revelation of our national character since Tocqueville."—Gore Vidal

"A major contribution to an understanding of the development of American culture and of America's conception of itself over two centuries. . . . Vance's fascinating book reveals what [Rome] signified, in many different ways, to Americans, as distinct from Europeans. And although its aim is a definition of American culture, it helps to define by contrast European culture as well—the often largely concealed tensions within Atlantic civilization. In fact it is a major work of much greater and wider relevance than its title suggests."—Hugh Honour, New York Review of Books
 

"Vance's study is a triumph of thoroughness, organization, and analysis. His strategy is to organize the responses of Americans to Rome around the sites and monuments always first associated with the City: the Forum, Colosseum, Campagna, Pantheon, and Capitoline in Volume I; the Vatican, Baroque and Victorian aspects, and contemporary situation in Volume II. The bibliography is a treasure trove, the citations are efficient. . . . America's Rome documents our fitful but enduring marriage with Rome so persuasively that the study itself will stand as one of the enduring legacies of the union."—Susan Ford Wiltshire, Classical World
 

 "America's Rome is a good source for the numerous ways in which American politicians ransacked Roman thought, architecture, and city planning to legitimize their own republic."—E.-M. K., Canadian Literature
 

"Two handsome and remarkable volumes. . . . Vance demonstrates in a comprehensive manner how many Americans from Benjamin West and John Singer Sargent to Paul Cadmus and from Emerson and Hawthorne to Gore Vidal and Richard Wilbur responded to the reality and symbolism of Rome. . . . It is such diversity that gives Vance's discussion richness and interest. He provides an impressive account not only for students of American art and literary and social history, but also for classical and renaissance scholars who wish to explore the continuing influences of this city. Vance has given us a fascinating description of Rome's inexhaustible ability to contribute to America's ongoing process of critical self-definition."—William Rusch, Religious Studies Review

"A major contribution to an understanding of the development of American culture and of America's conception of itself over two centuries. . . . Rome continues to disturb as well as delight Westerners on first encountering their cultural roots. Vance's fascinating book reveals what it signified, in many different ways, to Americans, as distinct from Europeans. And although its aim is a definition of American culture, it helps to define by contrast European culture as well—the often largely concealed tensions within Atlantic civilization. In fact it is a major work of much greater and wider relevance than its title suggests."—Hugh Honour, New York Review of Books
 

 "[Vance] is, in effect, writing two histories simultaneously. . . . [He] comes up with surprises."—Wilson Quarterly
 


 
"[A] wide-ranging study."—John Francis Philimore, Catholic Herald

"Vance has written a splendid, insightful, important book on a fascinating subject."—Paul R. Baker, New England Quarterly

"[An] important new study [that] makes the familiar new, and the strange well-known."—Bruce Redford, American Literature
 

"A comprehensive examination of how artists and writers of the United States have viewed and understood Rome. . . . A most valuable contribution to American cultural history and is a gold mine of sources and interpretation. In structure and method, it can serve admirably for similar studies."—David M. Sokol, Journal of American History
 

"[A] well-written book, full of provocative quotations and illustrations."—Richard Brilliant, History: Reviews of New Books
 

"A rich archive for the study of American literature, as well as for the continuing impact of Rome itself."—Esmond Wright, Contemporary Review

"The author attempts (and succeeds beautifully) to categorize the works of art through Roman monuments that inspired the creative works. . . . From a critical standpoint, these volumes elucidate the realm of art and literature; from an American studies viewpoint, they document a vital social/psychological phenomenon unique to the U. S."—Choice

"Lavishly documented. . . . Vance’s study is a triumph of thoroughness, organization, and analysis. . . . The bibliography is a treasure trove, the citations are efficient. . . . Vance’s assessments of the impact of ancient Rome on early American political thought are useful for students of the classical tradition in America. Even better are his readings of American fiction dealing with Rome. Best yet are his analyses of American paintings on Roman themes. His discussions of John Vanderlyn’s ’Marius amid the Ruins of Carthage’ and Paul Cadmus’ ’Bar Italia’ are brilliant. America’s Rome documents our fitful but enduring marriage with Rome so persuasively that the study itself will stand as one of the enduring legacies of the union."—Susan Ford Wiltshire, Classical World

"Rome was not built in a day, nor was this book. The metaphor is not inappropriate, for America’s Rome is, in every sense of the word, a monumental work: a fully representative selection and profound analysis of American reactions to Rome, ranging from fascination to disgust (not to mention combinations of the two) over the lifespan of the American republic and the papacies of the fourteen Popes from Pius VII to John Paul II. The source material of William L. Vance’s lavishly illustrated volumes is vast and varied—fiction, poetry, journalism, criticism, private correspondence, painting, architecture and sculpture. And the book has much of interest and importance to say not only about Rome and the Romans but also . . . about America and the Americans."—Bernard Knox, Times Literary Supplement

"A rewarding piece of work, not least because of how it departs from the received wisdom within the field of interdisciplinary American Studies."—Sean Wilentz, London Review of Books

"A nation born yesterday meets the Eternal City inn this rich, anecdotal study of Americans in Rome."—New York Times Book Review And Bear in Mind

"Vance’s topic is the past 200 years of American artistic experience in Rome, and the representations of that adventure in ink, paint, marble and bronze. It’s scholarly but never dull, with reams of fascinating details."—International Herald Tribune (London)

"An enormously ambitious attempt to synthesize the city’s magical hold on Americans."—Philadelphia Inquirer

"America’s Rome is, in every sense of the word, a monumental work: a fully representative selection and profound analysis of American reactions to Rome, ranging from fascination to disgust (not to mention combinations of the two) over the lifespan of the American republic and the papacies of the fourteen Popes from Pius VII to John Paul."—Bernard Knox, Times Literary Supplement

"A chronicle of how early American artists and writers have reacted to the reality and symbolism of Rome."—Early American Life

"A magisterial piece of social and cultural history."—The Bookseller

"A rich archive for the study of American literature, as well as for the continuing impact of Rome itself."—Esmond Wright, Contemporary Review

"In this detailed and lavishly illustrated volume, Vance explores the image and idea of ancient Rome in the American imagination. . . . A thorough and well-written treatment."—Library Journal

"Interdisciplinary art, social, and cultural history in the broadest sense."—Journal of the Early Republic

"Scholarly and ingenious."—America

"An intriguing investigation of the impact of classical, Catholic and contemporary Rome on artists, writers and other."—History Today

"From a critical standpoint, these volumes elucidate the realm of art and literature; from an American studies viewpoint, they document a vital social/psychological phenomenon unique to the U. S."—Humanities: Art and Architecture

"A substantial preliminary sketch of relations between the Eternal City and visitors from the New World. Writers, painters, sculptors, philosophers, journalists, critics, students, diplomats and prelates have contributed to the record; what they carried away in their memories and imaginations makes a mighty record."—Robert M. Adams, New York Times Book Review

"This superb book is an invaluable resource for all scholars of American arts and letters."—Charles Eldredge, Hall Professor of American Art, University of Kansas, Lawrence

"A prodigious study of the influence of Rome on American arts and letters. . . . Roman art, architecture, politics, and thought come alive as reflected in American eyes. . . . An erudite, challenging, deeply informative work for those enamored of the Queen of cities."—Kirkus Reviews

Winner of the 1989 Association of American Publishers’ Prize for the Most Outstanding Book in the Arts, Literature and Language category

Nominated for the 1989 National Book Critics Circle Award

Winner of the Phi Beta Kappa 1990 Ralph Waldo Emerson Award
ISBN: 9780300044539
Publication Date: September 10, 1989
544 pages, 7 x 10
55 b/w + 8 color illus.