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Melville by Barry Moser

Someone would have invented the automobile production line even if Henry Ford had never lived, but works of literary genius, by their very nature, are unique and would not exist apart from the writers who imagined them. Our cultural life would be greatly impoverished without the creations of such men and women.

The noted American literary critic Joseph Epstein identified twenty-five British and American authors who significantly altered the landscape of English and American literature. His canon included: Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Pope, Johnson, Gibbon, Austen, Wordsworth, Keats, Hazlitt, Dickens, George Eliot, Joyce, Conrad, Hawthorne, Melville, Twain, Whitman, James, Dickinson, Frost, Cather, Hemingway, T. S. Eliot, and Faulkner. These writers achieved what they did through their choice of subjects but are notable, primarily, for their individual literary style.

Illustrator Barry Moser has created distinctive portraits of each of these literary geniuses; his vivid images capture the essence of both the author and his or her work. Founder of the Pennyroyal Press—the publisher of many of his works, including Moby Dick and his monumental Holy Bible—Moser is one of our most accomplished contemporary engravers.

This exhibit includes approximately fifty of Moser’s original prints from his Literary Genius series. Particularly noteworthy are his compositions on the work of Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, William Faulkner, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, John Milton, William Shakespeare, and Mark Twain. These engravings, especially the intricate depiction of a Victorian London street scene representing Dickens’ work, are among the most complex engravings Moser has ever done. His images offer the artist’s interpretation of these literary giants and their impact on our culture, and challenge us to consider how their work has helped to shape our world and our thinking.

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January 16 – March 6, 2006
Dodd Research Center Gallery
• Curator: Norman Stevens