Fields: 19th Century American Literature; Geography and Landscape Studies; Environmental Studies; American Studies; 19th Century Political Oratory and Rhetoric; Sentimentalism; Robert Lowell "For the Union Dead" Website
Double Vision: A Photographic Experiment in Seeing the Same Place at Two Different Times in the Same View.
This film is part of my current project, The Art of Surveying. An image taken in 1911 of a street in a suburb of Boston, Massachusetts was aligned with an image of the same view from 2009. The “film” overlays these two moments to visualize a typical story of land development from small farms to suburban subdivision played out across America. It ends with both 1911 and 2009 shown at once: the “double vision” that is the goal of this project. This project posits that the more we can see in a place, the more we know about where we are, the more ways we can think about it, and how we might want to change, or preserve, it. (Credits: Soonmin Bae, Daniel Jackson; Jackson Homestead)
- English 120 - Critical Reading and Writing: Poetry
- English 120 - Critical Reading and Writing: Fiction
- English 293 - Readings in 19th-Century American Literature
- English 350 - Early American Literature
- English 351 - American Renaissance
- English 352 - American Realism
- English 354 - Civil War & Reconstruction Literature
- English 401 (Seminar) - Other American Renaissance
When young Thomas Sutpen in William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! (1936) comes down from the hill country, where his family has lived as squatters, to Virginia’s tidewater river plantations, he sees private property for the first time: “[W]here he lived the land belonged to anybody …and so the man who would go to the trouble …to fence off a piece of it and say ‘This is mine’ was crazy; …he didn’t … know there was a country all divided and fixed and neat” (Absalom, Absalom!). My current book project traces the strange alchemical process by which land is turned into property as told through literature and photographs. My purpose is to help people to look afresh at their environments with something like the astonishment that Sutpen feels, but in reverse: instead of seeing land turned into property, to see the land mass obscured by structured neighborhoods and built environments. As part of this work I use digital imaging to “unsee” property lines and use literature to help reflect upon these new views. The film on this website’s homepage provides an example of such work.
The Art of Surveying draws upon the rich trove of literature and photographs that not only comment upon but participate in the work of land division. Examples include William Byrd’s Histor[ies] of the Dividing Line (c. 1730s), Henry David Thoreau’s land surveys and related writings, Timothy H. O’Sullivan’s photographs for two of the “Great Western Surveys” led by Clarence King and Lt. George M. Wheeler (1867-71 and 1871-74), Gordon Matta Clark’s Fake Estates project (1970s), and Thomas Pynchon’s Mason & Dixon (1997).
Robert Lowell, "For the Union Dead"