In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

380 WesternAmerican Literature meeting with good friends again, only this time I knew these friends better, more completely. BETSYWARD Suwaiki, Poland American Iconology: New Approaches toNineteenth-Century Art and Literature. Edited by David C. Miller. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993. 344 pages, $40.00.) “Iconology”as David C. Miller conceives it in editing this volume, is predi­ cated on the assumption that “the visual and the verbal are deeply implicated in each other.” Miller’s use of the word “implicate” may strike a familiar newhistorical note—iconology, as it is practiced in the various essays in this collec­ tion, exhibits in its different incarnations a distinct concern with unmasking the relationship between political power and symbolic production (especially the production of symbolic landscapes) during the rise of the modern American middle class. The volume’s essays endeavor to “do justice to the intricate associations among art and literature, the changing nature of subjectivity, and the develop­ ing cultural context” of nineteenth-century America. Eclectic as they are in their subject matter and theoretical perspectives, the essays generally succeed in doing just this. Some selections, such as Laura Rigal’s “Peale’s Mammoth” or David Bjelajac’s “The Boston Elite’sResistance to Washington Allston’sElijah in theDesert”explore the social implications of one particular visual artifact. Other essays, such as Kenneth John Myers’ “On the Cultural Construction of Land­ scape Experience: Contact to 1830” or Emily Fourmy Cutrer’s “A Pragmatic Mode ofSeeing:James, Howells, and the Politics ofVision”survey, as their titles indicate, larger slices ofAmerican culture. A third type ofessay in the collection combines traits of the first two: it works from a discussion of rather isolated cultural phenomena to reach larger conclusions about the structure ofAmeri­ can society, as does Sarah Burns’ essay “The Price of Beauty: Art, Commerce, and the Late Nineteenth Century American Studio,”or as does David C. Miller’s “The Iconology of Wrecked or Stranded Boats in Mid to Late NineteenthCentury Culture.” Miller concludes from his study of these representations of boats, for instance, that the wrecked-boat motif figured “the end of the Ameri­ can artist’s own prophetic quest,” and it signaled in American art a turn away from the construction of monolithic historic visions, a turn towards experimen­ tation. American Iconology contributes twelve highly original explorations of the relationship between American art, American literature, and American culture. The subjects of the separate essays are not closely related to one another, nor are they meant to be, but David Miller’s careful and concise definition of the concept “iconology”lends them coherence, and taken as a whole, the collection Reviews 381 suggests an intriguing new way in which to approach American literature—as conjunct to American art. TheHauntingFamiliarity ofThings:Poems. ByRon McFarland. (Canton, Connecti­ cut: Singular Speech Press, 1993. 60 pages, $7.50.) Not an Idahoan by birth, nevertheless Ron McFarland gains “statehood”by living, seeing, thinking, and feeling TheHauntingFamiliarity ofThingsm his state of choice. A proponent of small-town life, he adds a poetic but realistic chapter to William Least Heat-Moon’s Blue Highways as he roams the varied landscapes of this, his third book. Certainly, McFarland is a man at home in a slower-paced world; tolerant of, but not limited by, physical and psychological boundaries of depressed areas inhabited by farm women, “little guys,” closings, foreclosures, and lay-offs. “Stone-hard lessons” might tempt disillusion, but not when curiosity, fantasy, grit, humor, imagination, and survival tempt more. His method—insight rather than oversight—tests his maxim for living: “What flows ebbs,/what rises falls, what takes gives.” Narrative poems flow like stories, without sections or chapter titles, a serendipitous technique that leads readers into individual seeing. McFarland examines ways of knowing at all ages and stages of life; ways of believing that guide lives. He provides tension and movement byforegoing “eastern”intellectualism for “western”recovery from “our stingy sensibilities,”grown that way by passively “waiting daily for something to happen./It never does.” Thus, he elevates, enlivens, and enlarges small happenings through ways of seeing that raise the ordinary nearer the extraordinary. McFarland photographically captures and crops the family farm; old-maid Aunt Stella; the town marshal...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 380-381
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.