The Commerce of Vision: Optical Culture and Perception in Antebellum America. By Peter John Brownlee. Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press. 249 pp. Cloth, $45.00; e-book available.

Integrating cultural history, material history, and art history, this study examines the “conceptions and practices of vision” that developed amidst rapid economic and societal change beginning in the second quarter of the nineteenth century in the United States. For Brownlee, vision refers to seeing construed philosophically, physiologically, and practically. In a proliferating milieu of circulating surfaces and printed texts—be they aesthetic, informational, or commercial—vision was stimulated, trained, and technologically corrected to facilitate embodied and engaged subjectivity. Chapter considerations range widely from medicine and science (especially ophthalmology and optometry) to print culture, paper currency, literature, painting, and urbanization.

Ahab’s Rolling Sea: A Natural History of “Moby-Dick”. By Richard J. King. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press. 2019. 430 pp. Cloth, $30.00; e-book, $18.00.


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