Jessie Morgan-Owens
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Photographic studies in the Hawthornes’ American Note-books
in Mixed messages
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When she edits the American Notebooks in the 1860s, Sophia Hawthorne will find passages that she calls ‘photographic studies.’ In this essay, Jessie Morgan-Owens examines each of Sophia Hawthorne’s photographic analogies by considering, at her invitation, the relationship between these realist nonfictional records and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s romantic fiction. When considered in light of the Hawthornes’ appropriation of the photographic and reflective as metaphors for a world they felt exceeded representation, Morgan-Owens’ analysis of these scenes reveals that photography’s significance extends beyond conventional alignments with the indexical real. For the Hawthornes—and as Morgan-Owens suggests, for American writing at mid-nineteenth-century in general— "to daguerreotype" implied a reflective surface in both senses of the word. In addition to the realist discourse of minuteness, accuracy and preservation associated with the written culture of early photography, there is a substantial supplemental system that gestures toward the invisible, the unsaid, and the unseen.

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Mixed messages

American correspondences in visual and verbal practices


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