The Panoptic Sublime and the Formation of the American Citizen in Cooper’s Wing-and-Wing and Cole’s Mount Etna from Taormina, Sicily

Brigitte Bailey (University of New Hampshire)

Presented at the 11ᵗʰ Cooper Seminar, James Fenimore Cooper: His Country and His Art at the State University of New York College at Oneonta, July, 1997.

Copyright © 1999, James Fenimore Cooper Society and the College at Oneonta.

Originally published in James Fenimore Cooper: His Country and His Art (No. 11), Papers from the 1997 Cooper Seminar (No. 11), The State University of New York College at Oneonta. Oneonta, New York. Hugh C. MacDougall, editor. (pp. 7-13).

[May be reproduced for instructional use by individuals or institutions; commercial use prohibited.]

Cole, View from Mt. Holyoke

Thomas Cole, View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm (The Oxbow), 1836. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

After publishing his memories of his Italian sojourn in Gleanings in Europe: Italy, (1838), Cooper returned to the western coast of Italy in his novel, The Wing-and-Wing (1842), an historical romance about a privateer operating at the beginning of the Napoleonic era. At the center of the book is a tourist’s set piece: a panoramic description of the Bay of Naples. Far more panoramic and finished a composition than any of his descriptions in his travel book, this scene suggests a move toward a more comprehensive gaze at the historical and aesthetic landscape, a development that parallels Thomas Cole’s shift from his earlier Italian paintings to those composed during the late 1830s and 1840s. Alan Wallach has argued that Cole developed a new perspective on landscape in his 1836 painting of an American tourist destination, View from Mount Holyoke (The Oxbow) [slide], a perspective that combined panoramic range with telescopic precision of detail and that functioned as an analogy of the middle-class gaze; what Wallach calls the “panoptic sublime drew its ... energy from prevailing ideologies in which the exercise of power and the maintenance of social order required vision and supervision, ... words equally applicable to panoramic views and to the operation of the reformed social institutions of the period.” Wallach adds that when tourists reached such scenic outlooks as the top of Mount Holyoke, they “experienced a sudden access of power, a dizzying sense of having suddenly come into possession of a terrain stretching as far as the eye could see”; this conflation of vision, power, and knowledge produced the experience of the sublime. 1

Cooper’s and Cole’s use of this perspective in their works of the early 1840s illuminates the function of aesthetic response in shaping a normative national self. By training this gaze on Italy, for nineteenth-century tourists the most visual of landscapes, they displaced social and political issues onto apparently transcendent aesthetic ground. 2 And by placing his panoramic view in the middle of a book about European power struggles at the historical moment of the emergence of nineteenth-century habits of vision, Cooper positioned the American middle-class reader as the conceptual overseer of the meanings generated by this historical moment and offered aesthetic composition as a strategy for organizing both the social landscape and the viewer’s subjectivity.

Readers have noted repeatedly that the rise of theories about aesthetic response and the elaboration of new technologies of seeing coincided with the rise of the modern nation state in the later eighteenth century. We are all familiar with the trinity of terms that governed aesthetic theory at the time: the sublime, the beautiful, and the picturesque. And we are, thanks to Michel Foucault and a number of literary critics and art historians, becoming again familiar with what Wallach calls the “machine[s] or engine[s] of sight” (83) invented in the period, such as the Claude mirror and the Claude glass, optical devices for unifying landscapes by enhancing perspective and regularizing tone (that came into use in the second half of the eighteenth century), Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon (1791), an architectural design for supervising prison inmates, and especially Robert Barker’s panorama (1788), a stationary 360-degree painting of an historically or aesthetically significant site which spectators viewed from a central platform. 3 (If you have been to Gettysburg, you will have experienced one of the few such panoramas left in the United States: the circular painting of Pickett’s Charge). I’d like to focus on one term — the picturesque — before going on to discuss Cooper’s romance.

Sidney Robinson argues that the famous British debate in the 1790s over the nature of the picturesque as a middle ground of aesthetic experience between the wild and the tame was related to contemporary Whig debates over the proper definition of “liberty” as a middle ground between “license” and “tyranny.” The French Revolution and its attendant questions of liberty, license and tyranny — of class relations, centralized authority, property rights, and individual rights — served, of course, as the context of both debates. Hence the testy nature of the debate over the picturesque, during which one critic accused Richard Payne Knight, a Whig M.P. and a proponent of picturesque landscape design, of promulgating “the Jacobinism of taste.” In any case, just as these largely Foxite Whigs were helping to lay the groundwork for nineteenth-century liberalism — a dominant political ideology in England and the United States — so were they also developing the concomitant visual orientation of the emerging ruling class: the bourgeoisie. The parallel between “a good landscape” and “good government,” to use Uvedale Price’s terms in 1796, rested on the ability of both forms of composition to harmonize without annihilating contrasts, i.e., to grant individual liberty without doing away with class distinctions or property rights, and to make order seem to emerge “naturally,” without overt indications of coercion. 4

[8] The aesthetic of the picturesque was, in a sense, the naturalization of a liberal ideology that conceived of national unity as a composition of “contending forces” (Robinson 87). And landscape tourism became, in part, the ritualized internalization of this ideology. Derived from the aesthetics of a landowning gentry, the picturesque developed into a mercantile perspective as well; detached from literal landownership, this pictorial habit awarded the picturesque tourist a metaphorical, visual ownership. 5 It became a flexible model for the gaze of a cultural elite (whether English or American) interested in finding a perspective from which the diverse and unruly growths of 19ᵗʰ-century representative democracies could be integrated into a non-coerced but controlled composition, a composition that was perceived — i.e., “owned” — by the elite spectator, the carrier of the social gaze. 6 But because the picturesque trained its users to internalize its values, its accessibility offered to extend participation in a national culture to a broader spectrum of citizens than previous aesthetics. 7

Blake Nevius has traced the presence of the picturesque through Cooper’s works, including his European travel books and the renovations he made to his estate in the 1830s, and has linked his pursuit of this perspective with his status as “the landed proprietor” whose “connoisseurship” indicates his social authority. 8 Like many of the original proponents of the picturesque, Cooper was an elite landowner trying to imagine the landscape of representative democracy and trying to shape an aesthetic — a gaze — that could be shared by a broader citizenry. Like other elite writers, such as Catharine Maria Sedgwick, who moved away from their parents’ Federalism toward a genuine if somewhat uncomfortable allegiance to the more egalitarian politics of Jacksonian democracy, Cooper reconceived of the role of an American elite as social and cultural rather than as explicitly political. 9 In The American Democrat (1838), also written at this time, he repeatedly attempts to differentiate between the “political” and the “social duties of a gentleman”; politically the gentleman has no more rights than his fellow citizens, but his rank, leisure, and cultural training allow him a larger, more “liberal” view of the social and historical landscape: “The class to which he belongs is the natural repository of the manners, tastes, tone, and, to a certain extent, of the principals [sic] of a country.” Thus the American gentleman is the “head of society ... , necessary to direct the body of society.” His direction of the body politic is not political but cultural and is based in the “Liberality” of his vision; he is capable of offering his nation “a high and far sighted policy, and lofty views in general,” “views” which ensure that he is “a guardian of the liberties of his fellow citizens.” 10

This far-sighted vision depends not only on its bearer’s distance from, even elevation over, the rest of the social scene but also on his immunity from being watched himself. In its angry rejection of the invasion of privacy, The American Democrat reflects not only Cooper’s embattled position as a member of an older, landed elite in the 1830s but also the intrusive quality of the democratic mode of social regulation: public opinion. As Cooper says, “public opinion constitut[es], virtually, the power of the state” (AmDem 80). The submission of public life to the public gaze is crucial, he continues; the citizen must subject elected officials to “a steady, reasoning, but vigilant superintendance” (AmDem 101). However, the public gaze should not invade private life; if it does, its leveling effect will destroy the liberal, individual character of the elite — the ones who have liberal character and vision: “The habit of seeing the publick rule, is gradually accustoming the American mind to an interference with private rights that is slowly undermining the individuality of national character” (AmDem 231). Ross Pudaloff has pointed out Cooper’s critique of the invasive scrutiny of the public gaze in his novels beginning in the 1830s; he says (in part quoting Foucault), “The disappearance of private character is ... [the] result of the belief of eighteenth-century revolutionaries that ‘opinion would be inherently just, that it would spread of its own accord, that it would be a sort of democratic surveillance.’” 11 Of course in his repeated insistence that the public and private functions of the elite were separate Cooper was protesting too much; his own language shows the entanglement of cultural and political power at the nexus of vision or “opinion.” In his public career as a novelist, he is offering not only to direct but also to share his cultural vision with a broadly middle-class public. 12 There is a tension between his “social duty” of educating the eye of the citizen and his reservation of “lofty views” for his own class.

Cooper sets The Wing-and-Wing in 1798-1799, precisely in the late-eighteenth-century period of British and American reaction against the French Revolution and of the debate over the picturesque — indeed, of the elaboration of strategies of seeing, generally, on behalf of the citizen. For Cooper this is an important moment in the formation of the American republic, and he uses this moment in 1842 to assist in the ongoing formation of the American citizen. The novel is a warding off of attractive “French” democratic/radical/rationalist/anti-property impulses and, in spite of Cooper’s antagonism to the English political system, a solidifying of “English” picturesque theories of social order. In a sense, the novel enacts a debate between the French and English contributions to nineteenth-century liberalism.

The plot of The Wing-and-Wing is a sub-plot of the French and English war at the end of the French Revolution. Raoul Yvard, a patriotic French corsair and a skillful captain, and his almost mythical ship, the Feu-Follet (will- o’-the-wisp) or the Wing-and-Wing, harass English and Italian shipping in the Mediterranean until his love for the pious (and Italian) Ghita Caraccioli leads him first into capture by the British and then to his death in a battle. As he so often does, [9] Cooper asks us here to romanticize and then to let go of what he considers an historical dead end, in this case French Republican values. Yvard is an atheist; his rationalism precludes his belief in a Christian God and, thus, precludes his marriage to Ghita Caraccioli, who will not marry an unbeliever. However, Cooper also suggests the possible recuperation of Yvard’s gallantry, individualism, and patriotism within an orderly social landscape in two related ways: through domesticity and through the law. Ghita’s presence continually draws Yvard into Italian (i.e., British) territory and eventually into a British warship. As with so many of Cooper’s novels, there is a trial scene; Yvard is court-martialled by the British for being a spy. But legal mechanisms for bringing the French citizen, here defined as the renegade individual and a threat to property, 13 within British disciplinary order do not work on their own; he escapes. Yvard is eventually defeated by the British. But it remains for Ghita, at his deathbed, to put him, perhaps, on the road to belief (whether or not he has a deathbed conversion remains ambiguous); pure women in this novel work to bind men even more effectively to the state or to heaven than does the law.

So what does this plot have to do with aesthetics or with the panorama at the book’s center? Terry Eagleton points to the uses of both female figures and aesthetic response when he argues that in this period “Woman, the aesthetic and political hegemony [became] synonymous.” 14 As power became diffused through an increasingly broad class of citizens, the self-ruling subject needed to be bound to the nation not through external force as much as through his affective life — through his emotional and aesthetic life, through women and art. For Cooper Italy signified a private vision of harmony that confirmed his public position as a “liberal” gentleman; Italy was at once an epitome of aesthetic experience (blending the beautiful with the sublime) and “like another wife.” 15 In The American Democrat he argued that it was just this openness to the affective, and especially the leisure to survey the arts, that made the gentleman the keeper of his nation’s gaze. In the panorama of the Bay of Naples he offers to share this gaze with a broad middle-class readership and, through this ritual of seeing, to help shape a community of republican vision.

Panoramic views of the Bay of Naples, as Ellwood Parry points out, whether they appeared as large public exhibits or as privately owned prints, were common and conventional by Cooper’s time; Cole included a panoramic view of the Bay in one of his Italian sketch books. And Henry Aston Barker, the son of the inventor of the panorama, “painted and exhibited a full-scale, 340-degree View of Naples at the Panorama building in ... London, in 1821.” 16 [slide of Explanation of the View of Naples Exhibiting in the Panorama, Strand, published in an accompanying pamphlet]. As this key to the scene shows, the effect — what Wallach calls the “panoptic sublime” — depended on the detailed visual access to the landscape, the promise of the full knowledge of what one sees. The exemplary status of the Bay for picturesque tourists as “the parent of all ideal Landscape” derived, according to Christopher Hussey, from its amphitheatrical shape. 17 John Conron and Constance Ayers Denne explain that Cooper uses this shape as a touchstone in his descriptions in his travel book, Italy; the background of mountains “isolates” the landscape from “the rest of the world” and provides a stage for the display of the “Arcadian ideal.” 18 But the scene blends far more ingredients than the human/nature harmony of the Arcadian landscape.

In representing “one of the fairest panoramas of earth,” Cooper positions “the reader” on the water and conducts “his” gaze from right to left in a slow panning motion that encompasses the entire coastline. This deliberate, two-page survey reveals a landscape that is a model of picturesque integration — both aesthetically and socially — a landscape whose overflowing vitality harmonizes difference and naturalizes social order within a visually free (although historically unfree) land. And the import of the view is universalized by leaving out place names (Capri, Vesuvius, Naples, etc.) and guiding the reader’s eye as though this familiar view were being experienced for the first time:

Let the reader fancy himself standing at the mouth of a large bay of some sixteen or eighteen miles in diameter. ... He will then occupy the spot of which we wish to present to him one of the fairest panoramas of earth. On his right stands a high, rocky island of dark tufa, rendered gay, amid all its magnificent formations, by smiling vineyards and teeming villages, and interesting by ruins that commemorate events as remote as the Caesars. A narrow passage of the blue Mediterranean separates this island from a bold cape on the main, whence follows a succession of picturesque, village-clad heights and valleys, relieved by scenery equally bold and soft, and adorned by monkish habitations. ... (196)

Cooper continues in this fashion round the Bay until he completes the “outline” of this idealized scene. Signs of past violence and oppression, such as the ruins of Tiberius’s villas, are submerged into the “smiling” and “teeming” landscape. Cooper employs a series of descriptive lists that de-emphasize hierarchy and that jumble tokens of past and present, upper and lower classes, and sublime and beautiful together into a fantasy of picturesque composition without coercion or even rationalist regimentation. This theater of vision reveals mountains that are “now wild with precipices ... , now picturesque with shooting towers, hamlets, monasteries”; heights that “teem with cottages and the signs of human [10] labor”; and a shore that is “a confused mass of villages, villas, ruins, palaces, and vines” (196-97). These images of unrepressed vitality, of a “grand yet winning confusion,” are all harmonized and framed by the “distant” “walls” of the Apennines and by the shape of the bay, which allow the “eye” comfortably to grasp the totality of the scene. Order is naturalized and “strikes the eye” of a viewer whose posture of passivity indicates the success of his culturally determined projections onto the landscape (197-98).

In his travel book Cooper states more explicitly the associations between aesthetic perceptions and class identity that underlie the composition of the panorama. During their stay in Italy, the Coopers rented a villa in Sorrento from which they could survey the “panorama” of the bay. Cooper describes both the view (more briefly) and then a series of “excursions” into “the noble amphitheatre of this bay”; the “picture[s]” he sees along the coast are made “perfect” by the picturesque details of boats, buildings, fishermen, and “domestic groups” of children and women. His description of their “costumes” leads him to connect the tourist’s aesthetic delight with the static nature of the social picture:

The pleasure of a residence in such a spot is enhanced by the circumstance that ... the inhabitants of these country towns ... seldom affect the airs of a capital, but are mere assemblages of rustics, and not children in wigs and hoops, like those of our small places. Here, the distinctions between a capital ... and a hamlet are all freely acknowledged and maintained; but the aspiring qualities of our population will not submit to this (119-23).

Unlike the shifting class identities and tensions of the United States, the coexistence of Italian classes is easy because class identity seems thoroughly internalized — as naturalized as the harmonious composition of the panorama’s “winning confusion.” And the social centrality of an elite — its position in the capital — is unchallenged. Unlike the United States, Italy features the merging of social and political capitals, a merging of private and public roles for which Cooper seems nostalgic, however much he argues against the explicit political domination of an elite in the United States. In sharing such views with an American middle class, the tension between inviting community and retaining ownership of the national gaze is partly relieved by the presence of the European peasantry, which serves as a class beneath both the American gentleman and the middle-class reader and so as a class fully exposed to their shared gaze.

The panorama in The Wing-and-Wing not only offers the traces of class and ethnic others at which Americans of different classes can join in looking but also indicates, even shapes, the internal composition of the viewer. The liberality of the visual landscape is commensurate with the social liberality of the implied reader: the American democrat. In its liberality, the scene transcends both the law of the English, which needs to suppress lower-class individuals to serve the state (the book is also concerned with the impressment of Americans into the British navy), and the maverick individualism of the French, i.e., of Yvard, whose lack of faith in a transcendent “being” (vs. “principle”) and whose predatory occupation threaten this integrated order. In his capacity to see the scene, the reader, guided by Cooper, shares in the “lofty views” and liberal character of the social elite — capable of seeing a social and aesthetic order that, visually at least, integrates an extraordinary diversity into a composition marked by neither “tyranny” nor “license.” In a sense, Cooper claims the picturesque perspective for Americans.

Cole, Mount Etna from Taormina

Thomas Cole, Mount Etna from Taormina, Sicily, 1843. Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford.

Cole’s painting also presents a panoptic command of Italian geography. After his second Italian trip, Cole painted several views of another famous, though less accessible, tourist site: Mount Etna. [slide] He composed the largest view, Mount Etna from Taormina, Sicily (1843: 78 5/8 by 120 5/8 inches), for a public exhibition of his works in New York. As Parry points out, Cole painted this view from a spot favored by other painters and this conventional composition might have had something to do with the rapidity of its completion: five days (292). Parry adds that the description of the painting which Cole inserted into the pamphlet accompanying the show “sounds like the kind of thing one might find in a pamphlet purchased at the door of a Panorama” (294). In both the composition and the description, Cole emphasizes a tripartite division of the scene; the foreground ruins represent the past, the pastoral middle distance is the present, and the mountain represents the eternal. By disentangling the tokens of past and present blended in Cooper’s panorama, Cole shapes these elements into a narrative missing from Cooper’s scene. The meaning of this narrative is clearest in a two-part essay, “Sicilian Scenery and Antiquities,” which he published in the Knickerbocker in early 1844, while Etna was on public display. Looking from another site of antiquities, Cole composes a similar scene:

From this deserted citadel, ... the eye embraces the whole site of the once populous Syracuse; and what does it behold?. ... [A] desert of rocky hills, a goat-herd, and a few straggling goats. Turning away from the melancholy scene, we behold afar off the snow-clad Aetna. What a contrast is this ... ! That is the work of God! Since its huge pyramid arose, nation after nation has possessed its fertile slopes. ... [B]ut the roar of the battle is past; the chariot and the charioteer are mingled in the dust.

[11] Cole structures his scene as a narrative of human mutability, a contrast between the rise and fall of human empires and the natural sign of a transcendent God. And, as he does in his series of the 1830s, The Course of Empire, he applies the “deep lessons” of the scene to the United States. He argues for the building of permanent cultural monuments and the pursuit of “virtue,” religion, and the arts in place of the pursuit of gain and the lapse into “pride” and “vice” that imperil empires. 19 As several cultural historians have pointed out, Cole’s “politics became strongly anti-Jacksonian, in line with the views of most of New York’s gentlemen of property and standing,” that is, with the class of many of his patrons. 21 In Etna the ruins in the foreground provide a palimpsest of history; as Cole says in his pamphlet, this was a Greek theater, modified by the Romans, later a “Saracenic Palace and Fortress, and more recently the Villa of a Sicilian Noble” (Parry 294). This compressed survey of history becomes a contemplative threshold over which the spectator views the “smiling” pastoral world of the Italian present. The view constructs the viewer as the conceptual master of history and nature; as opposed to the peasant figures in the scene, the central figure and the goatherd [slides — details], who are contained by it and who represent the region’s historical decline and present stasis, the American spectator is capable of interpreting (with Cole’s help) the landscape. The “deep lessons” Cole draws from such scenes imply that historical agency has passed from the inhabitants of Italy to those of the United States; the viewer is in a position to see, to know, and to act — to shape the course of the American empire so that it might avoid the fate of previous nations. The only thing that escapes the American citizen’s vision is the divine. The sublime power of the mountain is a marker for what, in a Protestant culture, cannot be represented (God); its size indicates not only the power of the divinity but also the size of the gap in representation. In his Sicilian essay, Cole recounts in detail his climb up Etna, the view down the central crater, and the view from the top. The fact that even the mountain can be known indicates the enormity for Cole of what cannot be seen or known.

Cooper also directs our attention to what cannot be seen; his preface emphasizes the religious arguments between Ghita and Yvard, who sees a rational order pervading the universe but no personal God, as a major thread of the book. He echoes the language he gives Ghita when he posits a hierarchy of vision with God at the top, an all-seeing being who cannot himself be seen: “the impenetrable veil that is cast around the Godhead is an indispensable condition of our faith, reverence, and submission. A being that can be comprehended is not a being to be worshipped” (vi). He defines Yvard’s revolutionary rationalism as a condition of immaturity; he thus implies a narrative that is at once historical and individual and that moves from reason to faith. The French Revolution let “the audacious” loose on a “sea of speculation” (Yvard’s element), although such prideful reliance on one’s own powers of reasoning also marks youth:

few young men attain their majority without imbibing more or less of the taint of unbelief, and passing through the mists of a vapid moral atmosphere, before they come to the clear, manly, and yet humble perceptions that teach most of us our own insignificance, the great benevolence ... of the scheme of redemption, and the philosophy of the Christian religion (v).

As Yvard lies dying, a wind clears “all perceptible vapor from the atmosphere” (454) and the sight of the stars, together with Ghita’s angelic ministrations, leads him for the first time toward the clarity of seeing what he cannot see-an ultimate authority over him. That is, as the “mists of a vapid moral atmosphere” disperse, the ensuing clarity permits him a view of the limits of human vision; the stars function as Etna does in Cole’s painting.

More than many other Cooper novels, The Wing-and-Wing is almost obsessive in its preoccupation with interpretation, with vision, and with surveillance. It begins with the inhabitants of Elba trying to read Yvard’s ship (is it an English ally or a French enemy?) and with Yvard’s masquerade as an English officer. Yvard is tried for spying, i.e., unauthorized gazing. Issues of defining national identity through appearance and manner pervade the narrative. These national identities are not fully clear to all participants until the final battle. This scene includes a microcosm of British imperial forces, including English, Scottish, and Irish officers and representatives of different classes. Yvard’s main side-kick, the New Hampshire Yankee Ithuel Bolt, who seeks vengeance on the British for their earlier impressment of him, fights alongside Yvard’s French men. Cooper defines all of them as acting out of their national, ethnic, and regional characters.

This union of the issues of nation and vision comes to a crisis in the historical episode at the center of this romance: the execution of Francesco Caraccioli, who turned against the king of Naples and colluded with the French, for treason; an execution supervised, in this novel, by Nelson. (Cooper is probably drawing on Robert Southey’s biography of Nelson 21 here for his idealization of Caraccioli, his critique of Nelson, and his mistaken implication of Lady Hamilton in the intrigues surrounding the execution, and, of course, he is inventing a granddaughter for Caraccioli in the character of Ghita). In revolutionary times, treason is hard to define, as the English captain Cuffe points out: “as to treason, it is not easy to say who is and who is not a traitor in times like these, in such a nation as this” (224). In the national and ideological realignments at the end of the eighteenth century, political acts become hard to interpret.

[12] Cooper’s panorama prefaces the chapters surrounding Caraccioli’s execution and the troubling questions it raises about national identity and interpretation and stabilizes the reader in a position distanced from this episode. This strategy parallels the structure of the book; the year it spans, 1798-99, marks the end of the French Revolution and Napoleon’s ascent to power, but its opening site — Elba — already anticipates Napoleon’s fall, explicitly referred to in the opening chapter. Thus both the visual strategy and the historical and geographical positioning of the narrative bracket the French Revolution and its effects. The Wing-and- Wing asks its readers to see the emergence of the modern nation state — and especially the United States — out of the instability of this period and invites these readers to become American democrats who supervise the liberality of a diverse but orderly national landscape. Whether or not Cooper’s readers actually complied with the invitation is, perhaps, another story.


1 Alan Wallach, “Making a Picture of the View from Mount Holyoke,” in American Iconology: New Approaches to Nineteenth-Century Art and Literature, ed. David C. Miller (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993), 83-84.

2 See my argument in “’The Protected Witness’: Cole, Cooper, and the Italian Landscape,” in American Iconology ... , 92-111.

3 Deborah Jean Warner, “The Landscape Mirror and Glass,” Antiques, 105, No. 1 (January 1974), 158-59. Wallach discusses both the panopticon and the panorama; he draws on Foucault’s discussion of the panopticon in Discipline and Punish, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: Random House, 1979), 195-228.

4 Sidney K. Robinson, Inquiry into the Picturesque (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991), 73, 79, 88-89.

5 For middle-class adaptations of the aesthetics of aristocratic landowners, see Carole Fabricant, “The Aesthetics and Politics of Landscape in the Eighteenth Century,” in Studies in Eighteenth-Century British Art and Aesthetics, ed. Ralph Cohen (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985); and Ann Bermingham, Landscape and Ideology: The English Rustic Tradition. 1740-1860 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986), 14-21. I am indebted for the reference to Fabricant’s article to Alan Wallach. For a look at the process of the naturalization of ideology via the picturesque in America, and in Cooper’s early work, see Kenneth John Myers, “On the Cultural Construction of Landscape Experience: Contact to 1830,” in American Iconology ... , 58-79.

6 I am borrowing the idea of the carrier of the social gaze from Laura Mulvey, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” Visual and Other Pleasures (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1989), 19.

7 Robinson, op. cit., 88; Bermingham, op. cit., 83-85.

8 Blake Nevius, Cooper’s Landscapes: An Essay on the Picturesque Vision (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976), 61-62.

9 See John McWilliams, Jr., Political Justice in a Republic: James Fenimore Cooper’s America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972), chap. 4; on Sedgwick, see Mary Kelley, “Negotiating a Self: The Autobiography and Journals of Catharine Maria Sedgwick,” New Fngland Quarterly, LXVI, No. 3 (Sept. 1993), 392-93.

10 James Fenimore Cooper, The American Democrat, with an introduction by H. L. Mencken (1931, rpt.; Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1981), 110-14.

11 Ross Pudaloff, “The Gaze of Power: Cooper’s Revision of the Domestic Novel, 1835-1850,” Genre XVII (Fall 1984), 278.

12 Cooper is fully aware of the function of the two forms of what Benedict Anderson has called “the technical means for ‘representing’ the kind of imagined community that is the nation” — the press and the novel — in shaping the consciousness of the citizen and engaging him in the nation. See Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London: Verso, 1991), 25.

13 Robert D. Madison has traced Cooper’s sources for Yvard in Byron’s The Corsair and Lara, sources which he argues connects Yvard to French revolutionary struggles against tyranny; however, he also points out Cooper’s condemnation of privateering in his The History of the Navy of the United States of America (1839) as an occupation whose “’aim is to turn the waste and destruction of war, to the benefit of avarice.’” See his article, “Cooper’s The Wing-and-Wing and the Concept of the Byronic Pirate,” in Literature and Lore of the Sea, ed. Patricia Ann Carlson (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1986), 128-29.

14 Terry Eagleton, The Ideology of the Aesthetic (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1990), 59.

15 For an extended description and meditation on the blending of aesthetic categories in his experience of Italy and especially around the Bay of Naples, see Cooper, Gleanings in Europe: Italy, ed. John Conron and Constance Ayers Denne (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1981), 131-32; Cooper, Letters and Journals, ed. James Franklin Beard, v. II, 371.

16 Ellwood C. Parry, III, The Art of Thomas Cole: Ambition and Imagination (London: Associated University Presses, 1988), 124-25.

17 Christopher Hussey, The Picturesque: Studies in a Point of View (1927; rpt., London Frank Cass and Co., 1967), 85.

18 John Conron and Constance Ayers Denne, “Historical Introduction,” in Cooper, Gleanings in Europe: Italy, xxxvii-xxxviii.

19 Thomas Cole, The Collected Essays and Prose Sketches, ed. Marshall Tymn (St. Paul: The John Colet Press, 1980), 46-49.

20 Christine Stansell and Sean Wilentz, “Cole’s America,” in Thomas Cole: Landscape into History, ed. William H, Truettner and Alan Wallach (New Haven and Washington: Yale University Press and the National Museum of American Art, 1994), 18. See also Angela Miller for an account of the Cole’s proximity to the American Whig party’s anti-Jacksonian anxiety over the unleashed growth and possibly impending moral and financial disintegration of the United States: The Empire of the Eye: Landscape Representation and American Cultural Politics, 1825-1875 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1993), 25-39.

21 Robert Southey, The Life of Nelson (1813, rpt., with an introduction by Henry Newbold, Boston: Houhgton Mifflin, 1916), 212-17.

Editor’s Bibliographic and Iconographic Notes


  • James Fenimore Cooper’s The Wing-and-Wing, or, Le Feu-Follet; A Tale (Philadelphia: Lea and Blanchard, 2 vols., 1842) was simultaneously published in Britain as The Jack O’Lantern; (Le Feu Follet;) or, The Privateer (London: Richard Bentley, 3 vols. 1842). It is included in all collected editions of Cooper’s Works, and has recently been reprinted with an Introduction by Thomas Philbrick (New York: Henry Holt, 1998).
  • Cooper’s Gleanings in Europe: Italy (Philadelphia: Carey, Lea, and Blanchard, 2 vols., 1838) was simultaneously published in Britain as Excursions in Italy (London: Richard Bentley, 2 vols., 1838). It is currently in print in the edition cited in Note 15, above.


Color reproductions of the two paintings by Thomas Cole, View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm (The Oxbow) [1836], and Mount Etna from Taormina [1843], can be found in, among other places:

  • William H. Truettner and Alan Wallach, Thomas Cole: Landscape into History (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, and Washington, D.C.: National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, 1994), Fig. 91, p. 75 (Holyoke) and Fig. 71, p. 60 (Etna)
  • Earl A. Powell, Thomas Cole (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1990), Frontispiece (Holyoke) and p. 111 (Etna)
  • Matthew Maigell, Thomas Cole (New York: Watson-Guptill Publications, 1981), Plate 16, p. 54 (Holyoke) and Plate 27, p. 70 (Etna)
  • Black and white reproductions are included in Louis Legrand Noble, The Life and Works of Thomas Cole [1853], ed. Elliot S. Vesell, (Cambridge: The Belknap Press at Harvard University Press, 1964; rpt. Hensonville, NY: Black Dome, 1997), Plate 12 (Holyoke), and Plate 24 (Etna)
  • Holyoke also appears in many art books on the Hudson River School of American landscape art, of which Thomas Cole was the pioneer.


  • The Panorama of the Bay of Naples is reproduced in Ellwood C. Parry, The Art of Thomas Cole: Ambition and Imagination (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1988), p. 124.