Date of Degree

6-2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

English

Advisor

Joan T. Richardson

Subject Categories

African Languages and Societies | American Studies | Esthetics

Keywords

Emily Dickinson, Henry James, picturesque, Ralph Waldo Emerson, remediation, William James

Abstract

This dissertation describes the way a renewed interest in picturesque aesthetics engaged the imaginations of writers, visual artists, philosophers, landscape designers, and collectors during the second half of the nineteenth century, reinvigorating a mode of inquiry that sanctioned the act of composing representations--mental, visual, and verbal--as a suitable response to social, political, and philosophical problems. The chapters that follow describe the understanding of the relationship between language, visual representation, and feeling that picturesque aesthetics formalized alongside the surface discourse of picturesqueness that was circulating through everyday genres, such as illustrated viewbooks, by the second half of the century. This dynamic picturesque sensibility becomes a technique for "remediating" nineteenth-century American culture in two ways: first, it grafts a younger American tradition of art, architecture, and literature onto an established European tradition to overcome and surpass any perceived deficiencies in the newer American tradition; secondly, it encourages an engagement with visual literacy in order to inspire interest in what might otherwise be perceived as more common and less awe-inspiring cultural sources. By the turn of the century, picturesque aesthetics in America becomes a tool for crafting self-fulfilling prophecies on local and national scales.

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