Monograph. The Image in the Text examines the explosive growth of illustration within American literary culture in the years running from 1820s—when, from a technological perspective, steel-plate engraving replaces copper-plate engraving and facilitates the rise of the mass-ediated image in the United States—to the 1870s—when the photographic half-tone will emerge and once again transform how images appear in print. The first three chapters discuss how nineteenth-century literary culture’s emphasis on the production and reception of images generated representational and reading practices that intersected and, at times, facilitated the rise of an illustrated print culture and its ascendant cultural technologies of optical imagery. Within this context, the final three chapters of The Image in The Text explore how the extraordinary growth of literary illustration during the nineteenth century and across a range of print media (including imprints, magazines, and newspapers) participates in a more general historical transformation of the image, from the imaginary to the optical, one undoubtedly expedited by the technologizing of culture, but not necessarily inaugurated by it. Upon its completion, The Image in the Text will be the first book on illustration that synthesizes literary, book, and art history with theoretical work from visual and media studies.
The significance of the methods and arguments of The Image in the Text, however, extends well beyond the history of literary illustration itself. The book will not only bring illustration to the center of nineteenth-century literary and cultural study, it will begin to establish the foundation for articulating a new history of the dominance of modern optical media during the twentieth century and beyond. By understanding the rise of the mass mediated image (from illustration to photography and later to film) as the possible extension rather than the antithesis of prior literary forms such as the novel, The Image in the Text reverses our familiar understanding of the relationship between technology and culture—one in which technological innovations drive cultural transformations--by showing how prior cultural forms—when conceived in terms of media environments—might generate practices which facilitate (or, alternatively, restrict) the introduction and acceptance of new cultural technologies. In short, my project argues that the production of images might have already been inside the text. Given the ubiquity of the image in our culture today as well as the current debates within the field concerning the relationship between literary and media studies, The Image in the Text is well-positioned to speak to and impact a number of fields in the humanities (including Literary Studies, American Studies, American History, American Art History, Book History, and Media Studies).
"Picturing It Differently: Teaching Early Cooper in a Media History Context,” Approaches to Teaching Cooper’s Leather-Stocking Tales and Other Works, Ed. Keat Murray and Stephen Carl Arch. New York: MLA Press, in press, forthcoming.
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