Tracing visual technology’s impact on 19th-century American Literature

In Immersive Words, Shelly Jarenski demonstrates that the contemporary challenge that visual images and virtual environments in cinema and photography, on the web, and in video games pose to reading and writing are not uniquely contemporary developments but equally engaged the imaginations, anxieties, and works of nineteenth-century authors.


The middle of the nineteenth century witnessed the emergence of numerous visual technologies and techniques: the daguerreotype, immersive exhibition spaces such as cycloramas and panoramas, mechanized tourism, and large-scale exhibitions and spectacles such as the World’s Fair. In closely argued chapters devoted to these four visual forms, Jarenski demonstrates that the popularity of these novelties catalyzed a shift by authors of the period beyond narratives that merely described images to ones that invoked aesthetic experiences.

Jarenski describes how Herman Melville adapts the aesthetic of the daguerreotype through his use of dramatic point-of-view and unexpected shifts that disorient readers. Frederick Douglass is shown to appropriate a panoramic aesthetic that severs spatial and temporal narratives from standard expectations. Jarenski traces how Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Marble Faun found success as a travel guide to Rome, though intended as a work of fiction. Finally, Sarah Orne Jewett is shown to simulate the interactivity of the World Columbian Exposition to promote racialized and gendered forms of aesthetic communication. These techniques and strategies drawn from visual forms blur the just-so boundary critics and theorists have traditionally drawn between text and image.

In the mid-nineteenth century, the national identity of the United States remained fluid and hinged upon matters of gender, sexuality, and, crucially, race. Authors both reflected that evolving identity and contributed to its ongoing evolution. In demonstrating how the aesthetic and visual technologies of the nineteenth century changed the fundamental aesthetics of American literature, the importance of Immersive Words goes far beyond literary criticism.


Shelly Jarenski is an assistant professor of English at the University of Michigan in Dearborn. Her articles have appeared in American Quarterly, MELUS, and the Journal of the Midwest Modern Language Association.


Immersive Words continues a line of argument about visual culture that has invigorated the study of nineteenth-century American literature, but it also forges new, interdisciplinary relations between literary studies and the burgeoning field of American studies. While its central texts are by nineteenth-century authors such as Melville, Douglass, and Hawthorne, Jarenski enriches her analysis with many other ancillary cultural texts, events, and subgenres that open the book up to other periods and forms of cultural production, ultimately making Immersive Words much more than the sum of its parts.”
–Michael A. Chaney, author of Fugitive Vision: Slave Image and Black Identity in Antebellum Narrative and editor of Graphic Subjects: Critical Essays on Autobiography and Graphic Novels

Immersive Words is a significant contribution to nineteenth-century American literary studies and to our understanding of visual culture of the era in its various manifestations. It provides numerous insights into the intersection of visual technologies and commodities with literary works, helping us to gain a better appreciation and sense of how the literary aesthetic achievements of authors such as Melville, Douglass, Hawthorne, and Jewett emerged from their engagement with and reworking of the aesthetic experience of daguerreotypes, panoramas, travel literature, and museum exhibits.”
–Paul Gilmore, author of The Genuine Article: Race, Mass Culture, and American Literary Manhood and Aesthetic Materialism: Electricity and American Romanticism


Trade Cloth
6 X 9, 248 pp
ISBN: 978-0-8173-1867-3 Cloth
ISBN: 978-0-8173-8816-4 Ebook
Price: $54.95

Jeffrey’s back with thirteen Georgia ghosts in this new edition of a classic

Hosts of haints have beset the Peach State throughout its storied history. In Thirteen Georgia Ghosts and Jeffrey, best-selling folklorist Kathryn Tucker Windham, along with her trusty spectral companion Jeffrey, introduces thirteen of Georgia’s most famous ghost stories.

Windham w212-6173-Product_LargeToMediumImageon hearts across the nation in her regular radio broadcasts and many public appearances. The South’s most prolific raconteur of revenants, Windham, giving new meaning to the phrase “ghostwriter,” does more than tell ghost stories–she captures the true spirit of the place.

Evoking Georgia’s colonial era, “The Eternal Dinner Party” explains why the sounds of an elegant dinner soirée still waft from the grove of Savannah’s Bonaventure estate. At the onset of the Revolution, the Tattnall family abandoned Bonaventure and slipped away to England. Young Josiah Tattnall eventually returned to fight in the Revolution, restored Bonaventure, and later became Georgia’s governor. One holiday eve, when the mansion was bedecked with magnolia and holly and crowded with visitors, a fire too large to control swept through the old house. Tattnall, exhibiting a cool head and impeccable manners, ordered the massive dinner table carried out to the garden where he enjoined his holiday revelers to continue their stately meal. The melancholy strains of Tattnall’s dinner guests still echo through Bonaventure’s ancient oaks on moonlit nights.

In “The Ghost of Andersonville,” Windham takes visitors near the woebegone Confederate prisoner-of-war camp. A plaque there still recounts the tale of Swiss immigrant and Confederate captain Henry Wirz. Convicted–many thought wrongly–of war crimes, Wirz’s restless ghost still perambulates the highways of south Georgia. Writing for the Georgia Historical Commission, Miss Bessie Lewis quips in her preface to this beloved collection, “Who should be better able to tell of happenings long past than the ghosts of those who had a part in them?”

A perennial favorite, this commemorative edition restores Thirteen Georgia Ghosts and Jeffrey to the ghastly grandeur of its original 1973 edition.


Kathryn Tucker Windham grew up in Thomasville, Alabama, the youngest child in a large family of storytellers. For many years a Selma resident, Windham was a freelance writer, collected folklore, and photographed the changing scenes of her native South. A nationally recognized storyteller and a regular fixture on Alabama Public Radio, her commentaries were also featured on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered.” Her other books include 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey and Jeffrey Introduces 13 More Southern Ghosts


“In Windham’s tales . . . myth and fact intertwine to present a picture of the South that is as true as any textbook.”
Paris Review


Trade Cloth
7 X 10, 160 pp
ISBN: 978-0-8173-1881-9 Cloth
ISBN: 978-0-8173-8885-0 Ebook
Price: $29.95

Exploring the consequences of social documentary photography

Documentary photography aims to capture the material reality of life. In Rhetorical Exposures, Christopher Carter demonstrates how the creation and display of documentary photographs–now often called “imagetexts”–both invite analysis and raise persistent questionsJkt_Carter_mktg about the political and social causes for the bleak scenes of poverty and distress captured on film.

Carter’s carefully reasoned monograph examines both formal qualities of composition and the historical contexts of the production and display of documentary photographs. In Rhetorical Exposures, Carter explores Jacob Riis’s heartrending photos of Manhattan’s poor in late nineteenth-century New York, Walker Evans’s iconic images of tenant farmers in west Alabama, Ted Streshinsky’s images of 1960s social movements, Camilo José Vergara’s photographic landscapes of urban dereliction in the 1970s, and Chandra McCormick’s portraits of New Orleans’s Ninth Ward scarred by Hurricane Katrina.

While not ascribing specifically political or Marxist intentions to the photographers discussed, Carter frames his arguments in a class-based dialectic that addresses material want as an ineluctable result of social inequality. Carter argues that social documentary photography has the powerful capacity to disrupt complacent habits of viewing and to prompt viewers to confront injustice. Though photography may induce socially disruptive experiences, it remains vulnerable to the same power dynamics it subverts. Therefore, Carter offers a “rhetoric of exposure” that outlines how such social documentary images can be treated as highly tensioned rhetorical objects. His framework enables the analysis of photographs as heterogeneous records of the interaction of social classes and expressions of specific built environments.

As the creation and dissemination of new media continues to evolve in an environment of increasing anxiety about growing financial inequality, Rhetorical Exposures offers a very apt and timely discussion of the ways social documentary photography is created, employed, and understood.


Christopher Carter is an associate professor and director of composition in the English Department at the University of Cincinnati. He is the author of Rhetoric and Resistance in the Corporate Academy and a past editor of Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor. His essays have appeared in College English, JAC, Rhetoric Review, and Works and Days.


Rhetorical Exposures is a fascinating and well-argued book. It admirably balances theoretical-conceptual exposition and critical-analytical prose about visual, material, and verbal discourses. Carter’s commitment to an unabashedly dialectical, call-based reading of social documentary photography is significant. Such an analysis frames the book’s photographers as forceful rhetoricians with political agenda.”
–Bruce E. Gronbeck, coauthor of Communication Criticism: Rhetoric, Social Codes, Cultural Studies and Critical Approaches to Television

“Carter positions his ‘rhetoric of exposure’ in current critical and theoretical discussions, and yet admirably never loses sight of its grounding in the actual photographs and struggles of the photographers. This convincing and informative work maintains a critical edge without condescending to the photographers as conscientious agents.”
–Thomas W. Benson, author of Writing JFK: Presidential Rhetoric and the Press in the Bay of Pigs Crisis and Posters for Peace: Visual Rhetoric and Civic Action


Trade Cloth
6 X 9, 216 pp
ISBN: 978-0-8173-1862-8 Cloth
ISBN: 978-0-8173-8810-2 Ebook
Price: $44.95

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