Picturesque Literature and the Transformation of the American Landcape, 1835-1874

ISBN : 9780192894557

John Evelev
272 Pages
156 x 234 mm
Pub date
Apr 2021
Oxford Studies in American Literary History
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Picturesque Literature and the Transformation of the American Landcape, 1835-1874 recovers the central role that the picturesque, a popular mode of scenery appreciation that advocated for an improved and manipulated natural landscape, played in the social, spatial, and literary history of mid-nineteenth century America. It argues that the picturesque was not simply a landscape aesthetic, but also a discipline of seeing and imaginatively shaping the natural that was widely embraced by bourgeois Americans to transform the national landscape in their own image. Through the picturesque, mid-century bourgeois Americans remade rural spaces into tourist scenery, celebrated the city streets as spaces of cultural diversity, created new urban public parks, and made suburban domesticity a national ideal. This picturesque transformation was promoted in a variety of popular literary genres, all focused on landscape description and all of which trained readers into the protocols of picturesque visual discipline as social reform. Many of these genres have since been dubbed "minor" or have been forgotten by our literary history, but the ranks of the writers of this picturesque literature include everyone from the most canonical (Hawthorne, Melville, Thoreau, Emerson, and Poe), to major authors of the period now less familiar (such as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Lydia Maria Child, Nathaniel Parker Willis, and Margaret Fuller), to those now completely forgotten. Individual chapters of the book link picturesque literary genres to the spaces that the genres helped to transform and, in the process, create what is recognizably our modern American landscape.


1 The Picturesque Travel Sketch: Reading History and American Exceptionalism on the Landscape
2 The City Sketch: The Urban Picturesque and Writing Middle-Class Identity on the Streets of Antebellum New York
3 Rus-Urban Imaginings: The American Park Movement and Representations of Social Space in the Mid-Nineteenth Century
4 The Country Book: The Picturesque Negotiation of Male Privacy and Intimacy in the Antebellum Suburbs
5 The Great American Novel, New England Style: New England Village Novel & the Picturesque

About the author: 

John Evelev is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Missouri.

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