American Silences: The Realism of James Agee, Walker Evans, and Edward Hopper

Overview

In American Silences, Joseph Anthony Ward offers a unique analysis of the use and effects of silence in modern American realistic art. Beginning with the nineteenth-century literature that laid the foundation for silence in art, he moves to a brief analysis of Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio and Ernest Hemingway's In Our Time, showing how they, along with several other crucial works of twentieth-century American realism, incorporate the power of the silent into their expression without sacrificing the ...

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Overview

In American Silences, Joseph Anthony Ward offers a unique analysis of the use and effects of silence in modern American realistic art. Beginning with the nineteenth-century literature that laid the foundation for silence in art, he moves to a brief analysis of Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio and Ernest Hemingway's In Our Time, showing how they, along with several other crucial works of twentieth-century American realism, incorporate the power of the silent into their expression without sacrificing the subjects and techniques of traditional realism.

Examining Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, James Agee's commentary on the life of tenant farmers, documented with photographs by Walker Evans, Ward traces the book's pattern of ""silence, then silence disturbed by sound, and ultimately silence restored."" Ward further supports his theory with a study of Agee's A Death in the Family and Evans' American Photographs. Ward sees Agee's admiration of photography as a connection between the silence of the scenes he writes about and the silence of Evans' photographs. The use of silence is perhaps even more obvious in the paintings of Edward Hopper. Although throughout the book Ward suggests both the positive and negative qualities of silence in art, Hopper's paintings provide little in the way of postiveness.

For Ward, the art of silence is an art of extreme concentration that seeks essences rather than superficiality that nearly transcends realism itself. The theme of silence in American realism is a significant new one, but Ward's interpretation of the prose and his analysis of the photographs and paintings, many of which are reproduced in this book, establish validity for art as the voice of silence.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“This book is...about Agee, Evans, and Hopper—three fundamentally realistic artists whose art ironically emphasizes silence, usually an irrelevance in realistic art. The method is mostly the close analysis of specific works of fiction, documentary prose, photography, and painting that in various ways concern themselves with silence or use a technical mode distinctly analogous to silence. Thus I consider silence both a method and a subject.” —Joseph Anthony Ward

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781412810975
  • Publisher: Transaction Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/1/2010
  • Pages: 247
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Joseph Anthony Ward was professor of English at Rice University and author of The Imagination of Disaster: Evil in the Fiction of Henry James and The Search for Form: Studies in the Structure of James’s Fiction.

Richard Goodman is the author of French Dirt: The Story of a Garden in the South of France and The Soul of Creative Writing. He has written for the New York Times, Vanity Fair, Harvard Review, Saveur, Commonweal, Creative Nonfiction, Louisville Review, Ascent, French Review, and the Michigan Quarterly Review. He teaches creative nonfiction at Spalding University’s Brief Residency MFA in Writing Program in Louisville, Kentucky.

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Table of Contents

Introduction to the Transaction Edition xiii

Preface xxi

Acknowledgments xxv

Introduction: American Realism and the Aesthetic of Silence 1

1 Four Fables of Silence: Poe, Melville, James, and Adams 19

2 Anderson and Hemingway 35

3 James Agee 78

4 Walker Evans 115

5 Edward Hopper 168

Epilogue 203

Index 207

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