American Iconology

New Approaches to Nineteenth-Century Art and Literature

Edited by David C. Miller

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This overview of the "sister arts" of the nineteenth century by younger scholars in art history, literature, and American studies presents a startling array of perspectives on the fundamental role played by images in culture and society. Drawing on the latest thinking about vision and visuality as well as on recent developments in literary theory and cultural studies, the contributors situate paintings, sculpture, monument art, and literary images within a variety of cultural contexts.

The volume offers fresh and sometimes extended discussions of single works as well as reevaluations of artistic and literary conventions and analyses of the economic, social, and technological forces that gave them shape and were influenced by them in turn. A wide range of figures are significantly reassessed, including the painters Charles Willson Peale, Washington Allston, Thomas Cole, George Caleb Bingham, Fitz Hugh Lane, and Mary Cassatt, and such writers as James Fenimore Cooper, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry David Thoreau, and William Dean Howells. One overarching theme to emerge is the development of an American national subjectivity as it interacted with the transformation of a culture dominated by religious values to one increasingly influenced by commercial imperatives. The essays probe the ways in which artists and writers responded to the changing conditions of the cultural milieu as it was mediated by such factors as class and gender, modes of perception and representation, and conflicting ideals and realities.

David C. Miller is assistant professor of English at Allegheny College.

"This exciting anthology does a wonderful job of rethinking American painting of the nineteenth century and introducing new methods of scholarship to the field."—Bryan Wolf, Yale University

"An exciting new departure in the study of American culture. Working from the premise that visual and verbal forms of representation require both distinct and connected modes of analysis, this book explores the intricate crossings of visual discursive codes in a variety of cultural practices. Essays ranging from tourism and the perception of landscape to public monuments and the politics of vision make it clear that whatever culture may be, it can no longer be understood in purely textual terms, but must be understood as a heterogeneous, conflicted field of representation and discourse."—W. J. T. Mitchell, University of Chicago, and editor, Critical Inquiry

"An exciting new departure in the study of American culture."—W. T. J. Mitchell, Editor Critical Inquiry

"This valuable essay collection should be of interest to serious students of American art and literature. . . . Highly recommended."—Choice

"Twelve highly original explorations of the relationship between American art, American literature, and American culture. . . . Miller's careful and concise definition of the concept "iconology" lends them coherence, and taken as a whole, the collection suggests an intriguing new way in which to approach American literature—as conjunct to American art."—David Teague, Western American Literature

ISBN: 9780300065145
Publication Date: August 30, 1995
352 pages, 7 x 10
100 b/w illus.