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Fall 2021 catalog cover

The Penn Press list for fall 2021 includes hardcover releases, first-time paperbacks, and ebook editions intended for scholars, students, and serious general readers worldwide. Click here to explore our forthcoming books, grouped by subject area.

Confounding Images
Photography and Portraiture in Antebellum American Fiction

Susan S. Williams

264 pages | 6 1/8 x 9 1/4 | 27 illus.
Cloth 1997 | ISBN 9780812233971 | $79.95s | Outside the Americas £64.00
Ebook 2016 | ISBN 9781512808872 | Buy from Combined Academic Publishers £64.00
An Anniversary Collection volume

Winner of the 1998 Nancy Dasher Award from the College English Association of Ohio

"Confounding Images offers historians a complex portrait of American culture in the antebellum era. Unlike other studies that fight to assign static, binary categories to experience—highbrow/lowbrow, masculine/feminine, plebeian/genteel—this work measures historical exigencies in their moment rather than by their eventualities, and in so doing offers readers rich insights about representation, both visual and textual."—Journal of the Early Republic

"The best study to date of visual representation in antebellum American literature as stylistic practice and as market phenomenon."—Lawrence Buell, Harvard University

Susan Williams recovers the literary and cultural significance of early photography in an important rereading of American fiction in the decades preceding the Civil War.

The rise of photography occurred simultaneously with the rapid expansion of magazine publication in America, and Williams analyzes the particular role that periodicals such as Godey's Lady's Book, Burton's Gentleman's Magazine, and Atkinson's Casket played in defining how photography was received. At the center of the book are readings of a stunning array of fiction by forgotten and canonical writers alike, including Edgar Allan Poe, Louisa May Alcott, and Sarah Hale, as well as extended interpretations of Nathaniel Hawthorne's House of the Seven Gables and The Marble Faun and Herman Melville's Pierre.

In a concluding section, Williams offers a view of the fictional portrait in the later nineteenth century, when the proliferation of illustrated books once again transformed the relation between word and image in American culture.

Susan S. Williams is Professor of English, and Vice Dean of the College of Art and Sciences, at The Ohio State University.

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