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Title:Prose for art's sake: creating and documenting an American aesthetic, 1810 - 1860
Author(s):Dennis, Sarah
Director of Research:Loughran, Patricia
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Loughran, Patricia
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Foote, Stephanie; Chai, Leon; Freeburg, Christopher
Department / Program:English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):American Art
Nineteenth-Century Art
Early American Literature
Nineteenth-Century American Literature
American Visual Culture
Abstract:Abstract Prose for Art’s Sake: Creating and Documenting an American Aesthetic, 1810 – 1860, assembles an archive of early American writings on the visual arts to query how American authors defined literary practice with respect to developing dialogues on visual aesthetics. I argue that when American authors cultivated professional and interpersonal connections with American painters and sculptors, they did so not because they envisioned their own productions as art’s thematic counterpart, but because of their interest in the visual arts’ practices of display and dissemination. Prose for Art’s Sake retells the history of American aesthetics as, at its outset, less a narrative of linear development and more a story of how tenuously related collectives of art and literary producers, at punctuated moments in time, and through proliferating print venues, began to give voice to nationally-inflected aesthetic theories. These theories were circulated to regional and national audiences, and counted among their originators a remarkable number of well-known, American authors, who interpolated aspects of the visual arts’ production and display into their own approaches into their poetry and prose. While authors such as William Cullen Bryant found the visual arts unnecessarily hobbled by the specificity of gallery display, others, such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, saw the ability of a painting or a statue to occupy only one space at a time a liberating departure from the unbounded circulation of literary works. Those who attempted to harness both the circulation of texts and the spatial specificity of visual works, such as Washington Allston, a dominant presence in the art world of the early Republic, found themselves at a theoretical impasse, posed between emerging Romantic discourses which privileged individual consciousness and a nationally inflected call to democratize the arts through reproduction and circulation. American writers responded to this problem by recasting the parameters of their audiences vis-à-vis the blurred disciplinary distinctions between literature and the fine arts and the confined spaces that elite works of painting and sculpture inhabited in gallery and domestic spaces in the United States and abroad.
Issue Date:2012-06-27
Rights Information:Copyright 2012 Sarah Dennis
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-06-28
Date Deposited:2012-05

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