25 September 2009

america guided by wisdom


in hss125 today, i presented "visualizing empire," a presentation that the wonderful kim martin and i did for a conference three years ago. using genre painting, we frmed architecture as a trope within the works to help understand notions of eastern-ness and western-ness in the early republic....with polarities between civilized and wilderness, order and chaos, etc. students seemed most to resonate with thomas cole's "course of empire" series....moving from the "savage state" to the "pastoral or arcadian state" to the "consummation of empire" to "destruction" and finally to "desolation." with each of these works in a series, cole depicts a cyclical view of the world, periodizing history and tending to compartmentalize each state into a discrete phase through which each civilization passes (reference here the later work of frederick jackson turner and the advance of the american frontier). the point of the presentation, though, is the blended landscapes with elements of the two visions of the world...not either/or but both/and.

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