The Commerce of Vision : Optical Culture and Perception in Antebellum America / Peter John Brownlee.

Brownlee, Peter John author., Author,
Philadelphia : University of Pennsylvania Press, [2018]
1 online resource (264 p.) : 8 color, 93 b/w illus.
Early American Studies
Contained In:
De Gruyter University Press Library.

Location Notes Your Loan Policy


Visual communication -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
Visual perception -- Economic aspects -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
Local subjects:
American History. (search)
American Studies. (search)
Cultural Studies. (search)
In English.
System Details:
Mode of access: Internet via World Wide Web.
text file PDF
When Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in 1837 that "Our Age is Ocular," he offered a succinct assessment of antebellum America's cultural, commercial, and physiological preoccupation with sight. In the early nineteenth century, the American city's visual culture was manifest in pamphlets, newspapers, painting exhibitions, and spectacular entertainments; businesses promoted their wares to consumers on the move with broadsides, posters, and signboards; and advances in ophthalmological sciences linked the mechanics of vision to the physiological functions of the human body. Within this crowded visual field, sight circulated as a metaphor, as a physiological process, and as a commercial commodity. Out of the intersection of these various discourses and practices emerged an entirely new understanding of vision.The Commerce of Vision integrates cultural history, art history, and material culture studies to explore how vision was understood and experienced in the first half of the nineteenth century. Peter John Brownlee examines a wide selection of objects and practices that demonstrate the contemporary preoccupation with ocular culture and accurate vision: from the birth of ophthalmic surgery to the business of opticians, from the typography used by urban sign painters and job printers to the explosion of daguerreotypes and other visual forms, and from the novels of Edgar Allan Poe and Herman Melville to the genre paintings of Richard Caton Woodville and Francis Edmonds. In response to this expanding visual culture, antebellum Americans cultivated new perceptual practices, habits, and aptitudes. At the same time, however, new visual experiences became quickly integrated with the machinery of commodity production and highlighted the physical shortcomings of sight, as well as nascent ethical shortcomings of a surface-based culture. Through its theoretically acute and extensively researched analysis, The Commerce of Vision synthesizes the broad culturing of vision in antebellum America.
Introduction. An Ocular Age: Vision in a World of Surfaces
Part I. The Problem of Vision
Chapter One. Ophthalmology, Popular Physiology, and the Market Revolution in Vision
Chapter Two. Vision, Eyewear, and the Art of Refraction
Part II. The Chaos of Print
Chapter Three. Broadsides, Display Types, and the Physiology of the Moving Eye
Chapter Four. Signboards, Vision, and Commerce in the Antebellum City
Part III. Painting, Print, Perception
Chapter Five. The Optics of Newspaper Vision
Chapter Six. Paper Money, Spectral Illusions, and the Limits of Vision
Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page (publisher's Web site, viewed 29. Feb 2020)
De Gruyter.
Publisher Number:
10.9783/9780812295306 doi
Access Restriction:
Restricted for use by site license.