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The Art and Literature of the American Revolution in Global Contexts

Fall 2010 (ARTH and ENGL)

Our IHRC project took the form of a fall 2010 Integrated Semester composed of two graduate seminars in Art History and English. Thirteen students from English, Art History, and the Winterthur Program in American Material Culture met twice weekly for an interdisciplinary study of the ways in which art and literature shaped political thought and action in the Atlantic world during the American Revolutionary period, from the taxation crises of the 1760s and 1770s through war with Great Britain and the French and Haitian Revolutions. The American Revolution challenged British North Americans to reassess many of their fundamental assumptions about their world, including the viability of their political institutions, the nature of social relations, and their cultural and aesthetic values. Students investigated such issues by focusing on the intersections of literature, the arts, and political culture. A major component of the Integrated Semester was the study of original texts and works of art at institutions rich in the material culture of the American Revolution. Students undertook field trips to the Library Company of Philadelphia, the University of Delaware’s University Museums, and Winterthur Museum. Public talks also formed an important part of the course. Three esteemed scholars visited campus for public lectures and classroom workshops with students. The students also presented short public talks based upon their original research at an in-house symposium, "New Directions in Cultural Studies of the American Revolutionary Era."

Wendy Bellion is associate professor of American art history at the University of Delaware, where she also serves on the faculties of the Center for Material Culture Studies and the UD-Winterthur Program in American Material Culture. She holds a Ph.D. from Northwestern University and is the recipient of awards and fellowships from organizations including the American Antiquarian Society, the Wyeth Foundation for American Art, the Terra Foundation for American Art, the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art, and the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture. She has published widely on the subject of artist Charles Willson Peale and is author of the book, Citizen Spectator: Art, Illusion, and Visual Perception in Early National America (The University of North Carolina Press, 2011). Currently she is also co-editing a special issue of Winterthur Portfolio that explores the circum-Atlantic movements of colonial objects. She is also at work on a new book project entitled, The Space of Iconoclasm: New York and American Historical Memory.

Edward Larkin is Associate Professor of English at the University of Delaware, where he has taught for the past five years. He is the author of Thomas Paine and the Literature of Revolution (Cambridge UP, 2005) and the editor of the Broadview edition of Paine’s Common Sense (2004). He has published a number of essays and reviews in major journals including Early American Literature, American Literary History, Diaspora, Modern Intellectual History, Novel: A Forum on Fiction and The Arizona Quarterly. Larkin received his Ph.D. in English from Stanford University in 1999 and spent the first part of his career at the University of Richmond in Virginia. Larkin is currently the Director of Graduate Studies in English, and this summer he co-lead, with Philip Gould (Brown University) the American Antiquarian Society’s (AAS) Summer Seminar in the History of the Book. Larkin has been the recipient of a number of grants including an NEH Fellowship at the AAS in 2006 as well as grants from the Library Company of Philadelphia and the American Philosophical Society. He is currently at work on a study of the way early American loyalists shaped the literature and politics of the US in important and largely overlooked ways.

Reference

Video

University of Delaware History Professor Ritchie Garrison, University of Delaware History Professor Ritchie Garrison was helping to clean out his late uncle's attic in Massachusetts when he came upon an intriguing department store bag.

"When I saw what was inside, I almost fell over," the professor says. It was his great-grandfather George T. Garrison's folded-up shelter tent from the Civil War, or more correctly, half of a shelter tent.