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The Pictorial Mode

The Pictorial Mode: Space and Time in the Art of Bryant, Irving, and Cooper

Donald A. Ringe
Copyright Date: 1971
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    The Pictorial Mode
    Book Description:

    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.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6432-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. I. Introduction
    (pp. 1-15)

    That nineteenth-century American literature from Washington Irving to Walt Whitman contains a strong emphasis on the visual—on “seeing” the world described in the various works—is so evident from the essays, poems, and tales of the writers themselves as hardly to need comment here. Wherever one turns in the literature of the period, he is likely to find a recurring strain of the pictorial, a stress on images of sight, and a deep concern with the need for close and accurate observation of the physical world in order to discern its meaning. In different works the practice took different...

  5. II. Space
    (pp. 16-122)

    Forced by the nature of their aesthetic beliefs to appeal to the “eye” of their readers, the writers were confronted with much the same problem as that which faced their painter friends: to construct a visual world in which meaning could be expressed through the depiction of objects in space. For both writer and painter, this spatial arrangement was crucial. Whatever the natural object involved in either mode of expression, it could assume a number of meanings depending upon the spatial context in which it was placed. Tiny human figures completely dwarfed by a vast expanse of mountain and sky...

  6. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  7. III. Time
    (pp. 123-204)

    Although much of the meaning expressed in the works of Bryant, Irving, and Cooper derives from the spatial arrangements they made in their depictions of the external scene, space is but one dimension of experience. No matter how strongly the writers might stress the relation of man to a spacious universe, they could not afford to ignore his equally important position in time. Indeed, their experience in the nineteenth-century world made this concern imperative, for wherever they turned, the problem of time and change was constantly before their eyes. Born in the closing decades of the eighteenth century when the...

  8. IV. Conclusion
    (pp. 205-228)

    To treat the various elements of the pictorial style in isolation—necessary though it may be for the purposes of analysis and comparison—inevitably incurs the danger of oversimplification, since time and space do not exist for anyone as separable entities. Rather, man’s experience in the world must always be seen in terms of his simultaneous relationship to both. To communicate the fullness of that experience, therefore, the artist must somehow suggest the dual relation in which man stands to his environment, located in space but changing in time with a world that itself is involved in a similar process...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 229-238)
  10. Index
    (pp. 239-244)