A few folks have asked what I'll be doing while I'm on sabbatical (besides frequenting the honky-tonks), so here's a very abbreviated blurb about my project:
During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Americans liked to argue about photographs. Yet their arguments about photographs were rarely just arguments about photographs. In a series of case studies, I suggest that Americans consistently used arguments about photography in their deliberations about a range of questions dominating this period of profound social, political, and technological change. The book will illustrate vividly and with archival detail how citizens’ beliefs about photography were intimately bound up with issues such as eugenics, imperialism, national identity, child labor, poverty, drought, war, and public memory. Framing the photograph as a locus of rhetorical engagement about social and political values, I will construct a rhetorical history of photography that shows how Americans used words about images to participate in the politics of their day.