Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2017

Access Restrictions

Access restricted until 08/31/2021

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Hill, Lena M.

First Committee Member

Folsom, Ed

Second Committee Member

Rigal, Laura

Third Committee Member

Diffley, Kathleen

Fourth Committee Member

Kinsey, Joni


This dissertation is wrapped up in a comparison of book and museum, which raises questions about the visual technology of the printed page itself: a black and white space. Articles and histories on paper production of the nineteenth century stress the necessity of bleaching wood pulp or rags in order to produce “beautiful,” “polished,” “virginal,” “clean” white paper. Bleaching paper to create a normalized, aestheticized whiteness, upon which to craft the cultural capital of the book, largely anticipates the later use of whiteness in the modern art gallery, where whiteness becomes a “neutral” or “objective” or “normal” color upon which to hang visual art or print words. In certain contexts, especially during Reconstruction and later during the Harlem Renaissance, authors saw the black and white contrast of the printed page as a symbol of racial segregation—whiteness and blackness following strictly ordered patterns. This dissertation thus investigates the shifting symbolism of black text on a white visual field between 1880 and 1940.

Several of the subjects of my dissertation have been largely overlooked by critics, (Celia Thaxter, Simon Pokagon, Melvin Tolson), although previous studies have examined the way books of modernist poetry become display spaces—the white space of each page like a wall or frame which affords the lyric poem similar attention to modernist visual art, and imitating styles of display made famous by Alfred Stieglitz in his galleries. Poets thus become curators as well as authors. My dissertation expands these studies to include works written before the modernist period (Thaxter and Pokagon), and after it (William Carlos Williams, E. E. Cummings, and Tolson), as well as analyze alternate material technologies of book production that vastly impact the visual experience of reading. Moreover, I also consider the political reasons for these material changes to the book, including racial representation, so that my work simultaneously explores both the aesthetics and politics of printed text.


book galleries, book studies, modernism, museum culture, racial representation, visual culture


v, 254 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 235-254).


Copyright © 2017 Brent M. Krammes

Available for download on Tuesday, August 31, 2021