The Other Nineteenth Century


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For example, luv or luf was changed to love and sum to some simply because, in early printing, the letters u, v, and m were so much alike that the printers changed the u to make the words, frequently used, more readable. English spelling became relatively fixed only with the development of printing techniques, and even then some of the words were changed to suit the particular printer. Those who study language learn early that the one immutable fact about a living, spoken language is that it inevitably changes.

The written language changes more slowly than the spoken language, but even that changes.

L. W. Currey, Inc.

Therefore, no one can make an absolutely authoritative statement about the correctness of spelling, punctuation, or even, in some cases, grammar and idiom. It would be comforting if we could hand out a set of rules for all times and places. It remains so even in our democratic nations. Our attitudes toward language tend to be dominated by our feeling that deviation or change somehow represents social decadence or moral turpitude.

As a student of American attitudes in , George H. Those few people nowadays who have made it to the top without a high school-diploma or a comfortable literacy are careful to hire people who know how to write well even though, in a kind of reverse snobbery, some may brag that they cannot spell, implying that they have more important things on their minds. Once we learn the standard rules, we like to think that we are conforming to a high standard of linguistic purity that is being corrupted by those who, somehow, are neither wise enough nor good enough to know better.

In many cases, good writing is equated with a standard of spelling or punctuation. We sometimes forget that the function of language is communication and that true clarity of expression is the mark of a good writer. Early lexicographers, such as Samuel Johnson, were conscious of the need to set a standard of usage and designed their dictionaries with that in mind. Whereby they may the more easilie and better understand many hard English wordes, which they shall heare or read in Scriptures, Sermons, or elsewhere, and also be made able to use the same aptly themselves.

With this consequence, I will confess that I flattered myself a while but now begin to fear that I have indulged expectation which neither reason nor experience can justify. In America, Noah Webster wished not only to establish an authority for the language in the new land but also, with perceptiveness and national pride, wished to reform and regularize the spelling system.

The question now occurs; ought the Americans to retain these faults which produce innumerable inconveniences in the acquisition and use of the language, or ought they at once to reform these abuses and introduce order and regularity into the orthography of the American Tongue? Some of his changes were readily incorporated into the spelling system; for example, honor and color, instead of the British honour and colour.

Likewise he changed the British musick, logick, theatre and centre to the music, logic, theater and center, which have become standard in the United States today. Other suggestions that he made, such as hed, giv, bilt, croud, thum, tung, wimmen, ake, and iland, have never been accepted. Conservative lexicographers in America felt that Webster was threatening standards of tradition and purity and was encouraging provincial American peculiarities.

The controversy was ultimately political and regional as well as linguistic and was heartily promoted and encouraged by the competitive tactics of two rival publishers. The conflict between conservative tradition and practical reform continues today. Dictionaries and the conflicts they provoke have little effect either upon educators, who continue to use traditional handbooks and spellers, or upon the public. In the nineteenth century most people, especially those with little education, continued to write words as they sounded, and, being far more facile with the spoken word than familiar with the printed page, used punctuation and capitalization as it suited them.

The fact that editors and printers in the past have often imposed contemporary standards of spelling and usage upon texts not only may change the texture of the writing but also may perpetuate certain attitudes about the permanence of the language. In , Thomas R. They see them only as the modern printer chooses to spell them for him. It is, therefore, not surprising that the existing orthography should come to seem to such men not the comparatively late creation it is, but as something which has about it all the flavor of antiquity.

When we look at the actual manuscripts of a number of nineteenth-century writers, or when we examine the editions that have reproduced the original language of the author, we find that even those who were well-educated were often erratic, uncertain, and, according to our own standards, incorrect in much of their usage.


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Why should this not hold true for the nineteenth century? Without doubt, nineteenth-century styles and themes have impacted on current art. Witness the Hudson River-like landscapes of Stephen Hannock, whose smoothly sanded canvases in gilded frames mimic nineteenth-century American landscapes. And Red Grooms, whose two- and three-dimensional images of earlier artists memorialize their achievements while using current innovative print and oil techniques. Or Ellsworth Kelly's simple line drawings influenced in part by John James Audubon's watercolors of birds. Many contemporary artists emulate or use as their starting point imagery from this earlier time.

The revival of interest in American art of the nineteenth century is demonstrated through such exhibitions as "Paris American Artists of the Universal Exposition" National Academy of Design, —90 —in which I brought to public attention works by artists whose names were once familiar but had become obscure: Frederick Bridgman, T.

Guggenheim Museum, respectively. Stevens and Rosenblum juxtaposed unlikely pairs of contemporaneous works that revealed influences and parallels, some of which forecast modernist trends. Exhibitions of this nature will recur and surely will foster new audiences for nineteenth-century art. Another encouraging sign is the space museums now allocate to the nineteenth century. Particularly relevant is the formation of an institution such as the Dahesh Museum of Art in New York, dedicated to academic painting and sculpture. Lynda Nead Nineteenth-century art history has played an equivocal part in the development of the discipline.

Often in the vanguard of new approaches to the study of visual images I am thinking here of the influential work of scholars such as T. Clark and Griselda Pollock , nineteenth-century study has also frequently been at the tail-end of art historical innovation, as witnessed in the seemingly endless reiterations of Impressionist masterpieces and the equally tiresome obsession with artistic value and canonical objects of study.

6AAEC Alternative Americas: The Other Nineteenth Century | King's College London

It is helpful to hold on to a degree of uncertainty when working across disciplines. Interdisciplinarity should test and strain the boundaries of individual subject areas; we should expect misfit and inconsistency as much as conformity and reiteration. Interdisciplinarity, then, ought to produce new questions, new objects of study, and new forms of knowledge. It ought not to provide additional support for the same campaigning ground.

Editor's Welcome. When last checked the page no longer existed at its original location. Of utmost importance is that nineteenth-century art history—European, American, international—continues to be taught. Changes in the methodology of teaching nineteenth-century art over the last fifteen years, including semiotics and deconstruction, seem to have reached the end of the continuum, and it is hoped that a more balanced manner of studying art—including formal analysis and technical examination, among other traditional methods—will be reinstated.

Linking careful observation with psycho-socio-cultural factors will allow students once again to look and read the work of art—not just read into it. Affecting all of this in a truly positive sense is the Internet. This worldwide network should help bring to light many works that have languished in private collections and museum storage.

The Other Nineteenth Century

It will also help disseminate information, making library holdings and digitized images accessible and opening new doors for examination and discovery, and thereby introducing unexplored areas for research. For the National Academy of Design, one of the oldest art organizations in the United States, the challenge is similar.

The 19th Century

Rather then reinventing itself, this artists' institution, founded in to promote American art though exhibitions and education, preserves the past while making itself relevant. To this end, the academy's academicians are striving to elect artists of diverse stylistic bents and encourage participation by all factions. They have embraced the use of the Internet and other electronic means while holding fast to traditional modalities of architecture, graphics, painting on canvas, and sculpture. The academicians are encompassing the past, present, and future of American art in a number of ways: by preserving a historical collection of art frequently exhibited and consulted by art students; by teaching these students; and by holding exhibitions of nineteenth-, twentieth-, and twenty-first-century art from elsewhere.

In the twenty-first century, I foresee nothing but excitement for those entering the field, and I envy them the opportunity of researching and dispersing their findings through new technologies such as this very e-journal. It is indeed a brave new world for the study of nineteenth-century art. There is always something authoritarian about assigning meaning.

So far, so good. More and more, cultural and historical approaches such as gender studies and socio-history are being employed to obtain insights into a work of art.

An Overview of the Nineteenth Century

This, too, is good. However, such a democratization of approach brings with it the danger of an "anything goes" attitude, and imposes a real threat on a core aspect of art history. The art of describing aesthetic experience is in danger of being lost, for despite whatever conditionality surrounds a work of art, description is nevertheless capable of conveying something of its intrinsic value.

An Alternative Mapping of Literary and Cultural Space

For some art of the twentieth century one may justifiably question the existence of such a value, but for the art of the nineteenth century its presence is indisputable. The much-contested autonomy of art in the tradition of Kant and Schiller means nothing more than art reflecting on its own productive and receptive possibilities in the wake of the loss of its immediate function for state and church. The nineteenth century is the century that sought to sound out all artistic possibilities in the light of technical and scientific advancement, the ever-increasing complexity of which art could at best only reflect.

The loss of the means to explain the world Hegel is compensated for in the manifestation of the arbitrary, the fragmentary, the repulsive, the questionable, and the uncomplicated as the reality of life.

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