Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-x

I am grateful for the fellowships and grants that funded the research and writing of this project at various stages: I owe thanks to the University of Oregon for the Margaret McBride Lehrman Fellowship and the Ernst Fellowship and to Tulane University for the Research Enhancement Grant, the Committee...

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Introduction: The Stare that Signalizes

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pp. 1-17

“Miles of Stare” is a haunting locution from an 1861 poem by Emily Dickinson in which the speaker observes that she has “known a Heaven, like a Tent” (Fr257) to vanish without a trace, leaving only the empty stares of those expecting a dazzling show:1...

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1. Emerson, Trancendentalism, and the Problem of Literary Vision

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pp. 18-51

Emerson introduces his 1844 essay “The Poet” with a poem that describes a pair of eyes that “rived the dark” and, through “worlds, and races, and terms, and times, / Saw musical order, and pairing rhymes” (445). What Emerson’s poet sees not only already bears aesthetic form but also yields specifically linguistic, poetic results. Seeing “pairing rhymes” implies the perception of...

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2. Doomed to Be a Witness: The Authroity of Ineluctable Vision in Douglass's Slave Narratives

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pp. 52-77

One of the pivotal experiences Douglass records in Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself (1845) is a vicious assault by white workers at the shipyard where he worked: “[O]ne of [them] gave me, with his heavy boot, a powerful kick in the left eye. My eyeball seemed to have burst” (68). Much like Jacobs’s eye at the attic peephole,...

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3. Dim Optics: Privacy, Access, and the Reluctant Seer in Hawthorne's The House of the Seven Gables

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pp. 78-104

If Emerson regards visual contact with the American world to be a safeguard against miswriting the poem, and if Douglass casts it as the unavoidable source of his slave narrative, Nathaniel Hawthorne famously complains in “The Custom-House” that such contact arrests the process of literary creation. Reluctantly stuck in the tedium of earning a living and the tensions of...

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4. Scarce Opon My Eyes: Fleeting Visions and the Epistemology of Metaphor in Dickinson's Poetry

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pp. 105-136

While Douglass, Hawthorne, and others were reconfiguring literary vision in prose genres during the mid-nineteenth century, poetic language retained special stature in transcendentalist and other texts as an epistemological record of spiritual meaning visible on the American landscape. If “[p]articular natural facts are symbols of particular spiritual facts,” as Emerson argues...

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5. To Arrange a Perspective: Howells, Jewett, and the Provoked Eye of Realism

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pp. 137-166

When Dickinson’s poems were initially published in 1890, William Dean Howells was one of the first (and few) important reviewers to praise them. In his “Editor’s Study” column in the January 1891 issue of Harper’s New Monthly, he celebrates the poems as strange and rare—sometimes full of “weird witchery”—but also “true” and “certain” (319); he describes the poems...

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Conclusion

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pp. 167-180

Given Jewett’s failure to see Native Americans or to see from their perspectives in The Country of the Pointed Firs, we must conclude, to some degree, by acknowledging the ways writers reproduce, even as they redress, the problem of American vision: its conflation of perception and rhetorical construction through visual metaphors that lay claim to knowledge and authority...

Notes

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pp. 181-206

Works Cited

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pp. 207-222

Index

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pp. 223-227