Voyages of the Self: Pairs, Parallels and Patterns in American Art and Literature

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Oxford University Press, USA, 2009 M05 15 - 232 pages
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Barbara Novak is one of America's premier art historians, the author of the seminal books American Painting of the Nineteenth Century and Nature and Culture, the latter of which was named one of the Ten Best Books of the Year by The New York Times and was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award. Now, with Voyages of the Self, this esteemed critic completes the trilogy begun with the two earlier works, offering once again an exhilarating exploration of American art and culture. In this book, Novak explores several inspired pairings of key writers and painters, drawing insightful parallels between such masters as John Singleton Copley and Jonathan Edwards, Winslow Homer and William James, Frederic Edwin Church and Walt Whitman, and Jackson Pollock and Charles Olson. Through these and other groupings, Novak tracks the varied meanings of the self in America, in which the most salient characteristics of each artist or writer is shown to draw from--and in turn influence--the larger map of American life. Two major threads weaving through the book are the American preoccupation with the "object" and our continuing return to pragmatism. Novak notes for instance how Copley's art mirrors the puritan denial of self found in Jonathan Edwards and how as colonial scientists they share an interest in sensation and observation. She sees Winslow Homer and William James as practitioners of a pragmatic self grounded in an immediate experience that looks for concrete results. Through such fruitful comparisons--whether between Copley and Edwards, or Lane and Emerson, or Ryder and Dickinson--Novak sheds unmatched light on our nation's artistic heritage. Wonderfully illustrated with dozens of black-and-white pictures and sixteen full-color plates, here is a stunning work that yields a wealth of insight into American art and culture--and concludes Novak's landmark trilogy.

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Voyages of the self: pairs, parallels, and patterns in American art and literature

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Novak's (art history, emerita, Barnard Coll. & Columbia Univ.) seminalAmerican Painting of the Nineteenth Century (1969) and her National Book Critics Circle Award-winningNature and Culture (1980) are ... Read full review


Self Consciousness and Thing
Luminist Time and the Transcendental Aboriginal Self
Circles Silence and Democratic Land
Transcendent Optimism and the Democratic Self
The Pragmatic Self Made Concrete
Immortality Eternity and the Reclusive Self
Time Space and the Activated Bodily Self
Selected Bibliography
Illustration Credits

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About the author (2009)

Widely recognized as one of the most influential theorists of American art, Barbara Novak is the author of several scholarly books and articles, as well as two novels and a play. Novak received the Woman of Achievement Award from the Barnard Alumnae Association in 1985. She was honored with the College Art Association (CAAA) Award for Distinguished Teaching of Art History in 1998, and the Archives of American Art Fleischman Award for Scholarly Contribution to American Art in 1999, among other awards, grants, and medals for her work. In addition, the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery, for which she served as Commissioner for about 25 years, recently established the Barbara Novak Acquisition Fund. She advises the Archives of American Art and National Academy of Design. Novak served on the editorial boards of American Art Journal and College Art Journal. She has served as a fellow at the Society of American Historians. Novak is currently Helen Goodhart Altschul Professor of Art History Emerita at Barnard College and Columbia University Barnard University has named a Barbara Novak '50 Gallery in Barnard Hall to feature work from the College's visual arts and architecture programs. In 2000, she co-curated the New York Historical Society's exhibition, Intimate Friends.

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