Apocalyptic GeographiesReligion, Media, and the American Landscape

Apocalyptic GeographiesReligion, Media, and the American Landscape

Jerome Tharaud

Print publication date: 2021

ISBN: 9780691200101

Publisher: Princeton University Press

Abstract

In nineteenth-century America, “apocalypse” referred not to the end of the world but to sacred revelation, and “geography” meant both the physical landscape and its representation in printed maps, atlases, and pictures. This book explores how white Protestant evangelicals used print and visual media to present the antebellum landscape as a “sacred space” of spiritual pilgrimage, and how devotional literature influenced secular society in important and surprising ways. Reading across genres and media — including religious tracts and landscape paintings, domestic fiction and missionary memoirs, slave narratives and moving panoramas — the book illuminates intersections of popular culture, the physical spaces of an expanding and urbanizing nation, and the spiritual narratives that ordinary Americans used to orient their lives. Placing works of literature and visual art — from Thomas Cole's The Oxbow to Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin and Henry David Thoreau's Walden — into new contexts, the book traces the rise of evangelical media, the controversy and backlash it engendered, and the role it played in shaping American modernity.