- Rus-Urban Imaginings: Literature of the American Park Movement and Representations of Social Space in the Mid-Nineteenth Century
- Early American Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal
- University of Pennsylvania Press
- Volume 12, Number 1, Winter 2014
- pp. 174-201
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- Additional Information
This article reconsiders various kinds of writings that were part of the cultural project to legitimize the building of urban parks in the mid-nineteenth century by casting their creation as an imaginative project that could reshape the way Americans understood urban spaces and their social roles within these spaces. Although the space of the park itself was imagined as the primary means of changing the social experience of American urban life, advocates of the park movement saw print as an equally important avenue for this public transformation, and this article draws parallels between the public park (itself a highly artificial and symbolic space) and the variety of literary forms in which the park was advocated before the development of Central Park. Examining nonfiction writing by Andrew Jackson Downing and Frederick Law Olmsted among others, as well as Sylvester Judd's 1850 novel Richard Edney and the Governor's Family, this essay explores the correlation among parks, landscape design, and manhood. Although the antebellum park movement ostensibly envisioned the park as a tool of egalitarian social reform, bringing together the genders and classes in an idealized intimate public sphere, the literature of the park movement's definition of the park spoke to bourgeois male anxieties about men's place in the gender- and class-determined spaces of the city.