In the Portrait Gallery of American Literature
This chapter sketches the main argument of the book, namely that after the invention of photography, portraiture’s changing symbolic and aesthetic practices helped produce new ideas about human inner life. Portraiture’s proliferating representational images of the human body began to characterize inner life as “deep.” Through brief readings of the appearance of portraits in the work of Walt Whitman, Edgar Allan Poe, and Edith Wharton, this introduction situates the changing visual technologies and aesthetic conventions alongside the development of psychology as a discipline. The chapter also introduces the political valences of portraiture’s new cultural function as index of depth, discussing how this function had different meanings for Black Americans as well as for white women.
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