Focusing on style as a means of thematic expression, Donald A. Ringe in this study examines in detail the affinities that exist between the paintings of the Hudson River school and the works of William Cullen Bryant, Washington Irving, and James Fenimore Cooper. The emphasis on physical description of nature that characterizes the work of these writers, he finds, is not simply an imitation of European models, nor is it merely nonfunctional decoration. Rather, he demonstrates that the authors' concern with description of the physical world derives from the late eighteenth-century theory of knowledge, and specifically from the concepts of the Scottish Common Sense school of philosophy.
Recognizing the differing limitations and opportunities presented by the media in which these two groups of artists worked, Ringe traces deeper parallels in their treatment of spatial and temporal relationships. Having at their disposal the suggestive powers of language, the writers succeeded in making of the pictorial mode an effective means of expressing moral and intellectual themes of fundamental concern to the nineteenth-century American. A full understanding of this characteristic mode of expression, Ringe concludes, is essential to accurate interpretation of the literary works of the first generation of American romantics.
Subjects: Language & Literature
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