The American Grove: On Nineteenth Century Vegetal Aesthetics.


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Innovation Fellowships




“The American Grove” probes the grounds of four trees and the people that came under their boughs as both, tree and human, co-created landscapes, cultivating distinct forms of aesthetic experience. The human-tree communities considered are:

• American elm (Ulmus americana) in New England parks and towns
• Southern pine (Pinus taeda and Pinus palustris) in tree plantations worked by slaves and later freemen
• Bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) in the Great Dismal Swamp, a refuge for runaway slaves

In the nineteenth century, science, literature, philosophy, and art converged in order to bridge human thinking to tree living. “The American Grove” re-gathers this forest of thought, but beyond paper archives, the living archive also informs this study. It is there among the descendants of humans and trees that a historical memory remains palpable not despite preservation, but because of it, which allows these landscapes to persist, adapt (and at times decline) into the present.