Touching Seeing

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How does a photograph feel? This essay review focuses on recent scholarly work that seeks to reimagine the field of photography studies. The books examined shuttle provocatively between sensory attentiveness and historical awareness, crafting new relations between the two. Feeling Photography situates these considerations in relation to the "affective turn," a loosely defined but provocative emphasis on sensation and emotion. Shawn Michelle Smith's At the Edge of Sight: Photography and the Unseen shares many of these concerns, routing them through an extended meditation on the excesses and insufficiencies of photographic visuality as these spark the development of an alternative critical sensibility. Marcy Dinius's The Camera and the Press is invested in media archeology: her analyses are largely devoted to print, the medium, she maintains, in which they were initially elaborated and circulated. Yet a keen awareness of the physical peculiarities of the daguerreotype - including how daguerreotypes materialize the metaphor of touching sight - situates Dinius's book in dialogue with the speculative project that engages these other scholars: that of looking and feeling otherwise.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)140-150
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican Literary History
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Literature and Literary Theory


  • affect
  • media studies
  • nineteenth-century American cultural studies
  • photography


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