posted by CAA — Jan 12, 2024
The CAA Edwards Memorial Support Grants, in memory of Archibald Cason Edwards Sr. and Sarah Stanley Gordon Edwards and made possible by Mary D. Edwards, support women who are emerging scholars and have received their PhD within the past two years or who are nearing the end of a doctoral program. Congratulations to the Annual Conference 2024 recipients, Daniella Berman and Phillippa Pitts!
In Auguste Desperret’s lithograph, a volcano erupts the word LIBERTÉ. Lava cascades down, threatening to encircle successive cityscapes (representing countries at risk, identified by their flags) and sending figures – many in military uniform – running in the midground. In the foreground, the ruins of a castle bear the date 1789, surrounded by stone fragments inscribed with abandoned values including diving rights and feudalism. The sky is peppered with boulders bearing the words julliet, in reference to the July 1830 revolution.
Produced in 1833 for the satirical publication La Caricature, Desperret’s print Troisième eruption du volcan de 1789, reframes the impacts of the French Revolution as a natural disaster. In so doing, it draws on tropes prevalent in eighteenth-century dialogues inspired by Voltaire among others, that positioned the Revolution as a rupture, oftentimes violent, akin to natural phenomena. However, Desperret’s print calls into question how these natural disaster metaphors for the French Revolution and the St. Dominque revolt were utilized and transformed as the event was repeatedly reframed in the years following 1789 and well into the nineteenth century. What was the function of such analogies, and how were they visualized? This paper will explore the manifestations of Revolution as natural disaster across the material culture of the long eighteenth century, tracing the shifting dialogues that positioned the Revolution as a rupture or cyclical, as progress or failure, as upheaval or disruption, while considering the legacies of this rhetoric in the historiography of the Revolution and related visual material.
Phillippa Pitts, Boston University
Presentation: Fever Trees & Pharmacopeic Dreams: The Medical Manifest Destiny within Frederic Edwin Church’s Heart of the Andes
Session: U.S. Imperialism, Extraction, and Ecocritical Art Histories
Although often overlooked, the pursuit of health was central to the nineteenth-century ideas of empire that shaped both U.S. Americans’ imagined sphere of influence and the period’s enthusiasm for grand landscape painting. As the source of lifesaving cinchona, quinine, and diverse Peruvian elixirs, the Andes loomed particularly large in the antebellum imagination. Plays, panoramas, popular scientific texts, and patent medicine ads all cultivated popular interest in this supposed Edenic garden of health and abundance under perpetual threat of spectacular destruction by earthquakes and volcanoes. Taking Frederic Edwin Church’s The Heart of the Andes as its central case study, this paper recreates the conditions of vision in the antebellum city to reveal the underexamined pharmacopeic narratives within the painting and its dramatic performance. In doing so, it highlights how such displays of biodiverse abundance concealed the actual violence of botanical extraction. Indigenous and African laborers were, as one period observer noted, “made human sacrifices to furnish health to the white foreigners,” dying of disease as they carried the lifesaving treatments that would safeguard European and U.S. American imperial forces across the Global South. Today’s scholarly emphasis on the genocidal colonial excavation of Andean gold and silver has similarly elided the cultural, ecological, and human cost of extracting vegetable resources. Pairing insights from ecocriticism and critical disability studies, this paper argues for the importance of recognizing this medical Manifest Destiny, as well as artists’ role in naturalizing such discourse.