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"The Return of the Dead": Reactions Against Photography in Nineteenth-Century American Literature

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abstract
This thesis is an examination of the relationship between photography and nineteenth-century American literature. I argue that upon its introduction to the public in 1839, the modern photograph created a paradigm shift in what people thought about memory. The American public configured photographs as physical manifestations of memories that could be preserved forever. Yet by relying so heavily on external stimuli, the veritable idolaters of photography implicitly denied the power of their own minds. This discussion shows that American writers during the nineteenth century, specifically Nathaniel Hawthorne, Emily Dickinson, and Walt Whitman, reacted negatively to the new paradigm of memory created by photography and expressed disdain for it in their texts. Their texts repudiate memory qua memory and offer alternative strategies for thinking about the past, present, and future. These writers choose not to engage photography as an invention or a socio-economic phenomenon; instead, they attempt to disrupt their contemporaries’ collective obsession with clinging to the past, which was an obsession that was fueled by the proliferation and popularity of photography.
subject
photography
memory
Hawthorne
Dickinson
Whitman
daguerreotype
contributor
Waddell, Paul (author)
Eric G. Wilson (committee chair)
Barry Maine (committee member)
Jessica Richard (committee member)
date
2008-12-15T15:49:18Z (accessioned)
2010-06-18T18:59:08Z (accessioned)
2008-12-15T15:49:18Z (available)
2010-06-18T18:59:08Z (available)
2008-12-15T15:49:18Z (issued)
degree
English (discipline)
identifier
http://hdl.handle.net/10339/14830 (uri)
language
en_US (iso)
publisher
Wake Forest University
rights
Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide. (accessRights)
title
"The Return of the Dead": Reactions Against Photography in Nineteenth-Century American Literature
type
Thesis

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