The introduction outlines the basic narrative of the book: how the Puritanical logocentrism of some of North America’s first English settlers yielded to the democratic ocularcentrism of today. More than any other city, Boston reveals how this process took place. A culture of spectatorship emerged just as the urban visual environment itself became a spiritually charged illustrated text, drawing the competing gazes of art-admiring intellectuals, literate middle-class Protestants, and increasingly socially independent laborers. While The Hub was far from the only nineteenth-century city to “give not the human senses room enough” (as Ralph Waldo Emerson put it), it was there that a liberated faculty of sight first promised escape from the competition, congestions, and social divisions of urban life.
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