Apocalyptic Geographies: Religion, Media, and the American Landscape

Apocalyptic Geographies: Religion, Media, and the American Landscape

by Jerome Tharaud

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How nineteenth-century Protestant evangelicals used print and visual media to shape American culture

In nineteenth-century America, "apocalypse" referred not to the end of the world but to sacred revelation, and "geography" meant both the physical landscape and its representation in printed maps, atlases, and pictures. In Apocalyptic Geographies, Jerome Tharaud explores how white Protestant evangelicals used print and visual media to present the antebellum landscape as a “sacred space” of spiritual pilgrimage, and how devotional literature influenced secular society in important and surprising ways.

Reading across genres and media—including religious tracts and landscape paintings, domestic fiction and missionary memoirs, slave narratives and moving panoramas—Apocalyptic Geographies illuminates intersections of popular culture, the physical spaces of an expanding and urbanizing nation, and the spiritual narratives that ordinary Americans used to orient their lives. Placing works of literature and visual art—from Thomas Cole’s The Oxbow to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Henry David Thoreau’s Walden—into new contexts, Tharaud traces the rise of evangelical media, the controversy and backlash it engendered, and the role it played in shaping American modernity.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780691203263
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 10/13/2020
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 360
File size: 68 MB
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About the Author

Jerome Tharaud is assistant professor of English at Brandeis University.

Table of Contents

Illustrations ix

Acknowledgments xiii

Abbreviations xvii

Introduction 1

Part I Evangelical Space 27

1 Thomas Cole and the Landscape of Evangelical Print 29

2 Abolitionist Mediascapes: The American Anti-Slavery Society and the Sacred Geography of Emancipation 67

3 The Human Medium: Harriet Beecher Stowe and the New-York Evangelist 110

Part II Geographies of the Secular 145

4 Pilgrimage to the "Secular Center": Tourism and the Sentimental Novel 147

5 Cosmic Modernity: Henry David Thoreau, the Missionary Memoir, and the Heathen Within 184

6 The Sensational Republic: Catholic Conspiracy and the Battle for the Great West 214

Epilogue 254

Notes 273

Selected Bibliography 321

Index 327

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"This pioneering work offers a new and striking account of the relation between evangelical media and secular society. Jerome Tharaud tells a riveting story about modernity growing out of religious tracts, slave narratives, landscape paintings, and moving panoramas, as well as fiction. A spirited rejoinder to Benedict Anderson and Arjun Appadurai."—Wai Chee Dimock, Yale University

"In the best tradition of American cultural history, Jerome Tharaud has produced a superbly researched account of space—from landscape to mediascape to the cultural work of republican geography. Drawing on fiction, painting, religion, and mass print, Tharaud takes readers on a great road trip through American history, tracing the conviction that nationhood and space are the providential registers of an encompassing narrative."—David Morgan, Duke University

“In this wide-ranging study of antebellum aesthetic forms, Jerome Tharaud examines how print and visual media, even the landscape itself, revealed sacred meanings as an impending crisis loomed over the United States. With its rich survey of 'evangelical space,' Apocalyptic Geographies stands as an example of authoritative scholarship that fuses religion and faith to modern notions of media.”—Russ Castronovo, University of Wisconsin–Madison

“Tharaud has written an insightful and richly textured account of how Protestants used a spectrum of artistic forms to deepen their sense of a divine presence and providence in their lives. Apocalyptic Geographies is a truly impressive accomplishment.”—Paul C. Gutjahr, Indiana University

“Blending theoretical sophistication with meticulous historical detail and close textual interpretation, Apocalyptic Geographies makes a powerful case for the vital importance of religion to Americanist scholarship.”—Hsuan L. Hsu, University of California, Davis

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