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Title: Margin, Surface, Depth: Picturing the Contours of the Marine in Nineteenth-Century America
Authors: Shahi, Kimia
Advisors: DeLue, Rachael Z
Contributors: Art and Archaeology Department
Keywords: Cartography
Subjects: Art history
American studies
Environmental studies
Issue Date: 2021
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation uncovers the surprisingly uncertain relationships between seeing and knowing that shaped how seacoasts were pictured, mapped, and imagined in the United States in the mid-through-late nineteenth-century. During these decades of imperial and settler-colonial expansion, technological modernization, and proliferating modes of transoceanic exchange, efforts to observe, delineate, and describe coasts, coastal phenomena, and their relationships to both sea and land took on new and urgent stakes. Situating period techniques of visual representation associated with both art and science within a broader field of knowledge practice and theory, I demonstrate how coastlines’ material and perceptual conditions challenged conventional relationships between observation and representation across a range of mediums used to produce and transmit visual knowledge about space, territory, and nature, including painting, cartography, drawing, watercolor, and scientific illustration. By elucidating the ways in which knowledge about seacoasts was conceptualized, mediated, and contested across these spheres of production, I offer an expanded and reoriented account, in both spatial and disciplinary terms, of nineteenth-century formulations of landscape, territory, geography, and their cultural politics within, at, and beyond the fluctuating boundaries of the nation itself. This dissertation’s four chapters examine how a selection of period artists, surveyors, scientists, and writers sought to picture shorelines from different physical and conceptual vantage points. I trace how artists such as Martin Johnson Heade (1819-1904), William Trost Richards (1833-1905), and Edward Moran (1829-1901) tested conventions of genre, facture, and truth-to-nature in response to the properties of water, estuaries, and underwater phenomena. Investigating maps, illustrations, and technical manuals produced by the U.S. Coast Survey and within a transnational cohort of oceanographers, I demonstrate how the ever-changing shape of shorelines and the elusive nature of subaqueous terrains challenged ideologies of scientific accuracy, state power, and cartographic knowledge. I argue that together, these case-studies reveal how new forms of skepticism towards vision and related conceptions of truth, realism, accuracy, and illusion, long considered signposts of emerging modes of visual modernity within the long nineteenth century, took on distinctive epistemological, pictorial, and spatial stakes alongshore. They attest to coastlines’ formative roles within modernizing histories of geography, empire, vision, and objectivity.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Art and Archaeology

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