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American Travel Literature, Gendered Aesthetics and the Italian Tour, 1824–62

Brigitte Bailey

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Examines tourists’ aesthetic responses in the context of US nation formation

American Travel Literature analyses tourist writings about Italy from 1824 to 1862 to explain what roles transatlantic travel, aesthetic response and the genre of tourist writing played in the formation of the United States. The Italian tour and its textual and visual expressions were forms through which predominantly white, northeastern elites dreamed their way into national identity and cultural authority. Its interdisciplinary methodology draws on antebellum visual culture, tourist practices and shifting class and gender identities to describe tourism and tourist writing as shapers of an elite (and then normative) national subjectivity. Bringing perspectives from art history and aesthetics, it historicises aesthetic practices, illuminating the depth of Americans’ turn towards visual iconography in articulating social and national identities.

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1. Irving's Landscapes: Aesthetics, Visual Work, and the Tourist's Estate
2. The Protected Witness: Cooper, Cole, and the Male Tourist's Gaze
3. Gazing Women, Unstable Prospects: Sedgwick and Kirkland in the 1840s
4. Fuller and Revolutionary Rome: Republican and Urban Imaginaries
5. National Spaces, Catholic Icons, and Protestant Bodies: Instructing the Republican
Subject in Hawthorne and Stowe
Conclusion: Gender and Genre

About the Author

Brigitte Bailey is Associate Professor of English at the University of New Hampshire. She is the co-editor, with Katheryn P. Viens, and Conrad Edick Wright, of Margaret Fuller and Her Circles (University of New Hampshire Press, 2013) and also a co-editor, with Beth L. Lueck and Lucinda L. Damon-Bach, of Transatlantic Women: Nineteenth-Century American Women Writers and Great Britain (University of New Hampshire Press, 2012).


This is a theoretically rich exploration of a central topic in American cultural history. By examining how a host of antebellum American authors treated the Italian landscape in their works, Bailey reveals not only the complexity of their aesthetic practices, but also their key contributions to social and political developments in the United States. 

- Larry J. Reynolds, Texas A&M University

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