Pharmacoepic Dreams: Art and America’s Medical Democracy, 1800-1860


Luce/ACLS Dissertation Fellowships in American Art


History of Art & Architecture


This project applies a critical disability studies lens to the surge of artistic production around health and wellness inspired by the establishment of a “medical democracy” in the antebellum United States. By illuminating the ways in which artists created meaning around the myriad substances consumed as medicine within the Jacksonian laissez-faire market, this study expands our analysis of pharmaceutical visuality from the conventional spheres of packaging and promotions into print culture, botanical illustration, and grand landscape painting. By uncovering pharmacoepic imaginaries in unexpected places, the project reveals a deep yet under-theorized current within American art, and models how disability theory can unsettle our understanding of even well-studied topics in art history.