Shaker Vision
408 pages, 7 x 9 1/2
Release Date:01 Nov 2019
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Shaker Vision

Seeing Beauty in Early America

University of Massachusetts Press
The Shakers are known for self-denial and austerity in everyday living and their material world, as embodied by the heavenly simplicity and purity of their chairs and blanket chests. Yet the believers also enjoyed a diversity of visual pleasures, from flowers, sunsets, rainbows, and the northern lights as seen at home to waterfalls, ocean waves, and dramatic cliffs viewed while traveling across America.
In Shaker Vision, Joseph Manca explores original texts, especially diaries and travel journals, and material culture to demonstrate that Shakers enjoyed a remarkably deep experience of the visual world. Shakers shared tastes with mainstream Americans and often employed a similar aesthetic vocabulary, but all within a belief system that made them distinct. In addition to their well-known ascetic architecture, furniture, and handicraft styles, they expressed themselves through ornate and detailed spiritual art and in vivid, visionary experiences. Based on firsthand accounts of the believers themselves, this richly illustrated volume will dramatically change how we assess the visual world of this uniquely American religious sect.
An engaging account of the place and function of beauty in the life and experience of the early Shaker community.'—Stephen J. Stein, author of The Shaker Experience in America: A History of the United Society of Believers

'This meticulously researched and masterfully documented study of early Shaker attitudes toward beauty will appeal to anyone interested in Shaker culture and history.'—Kathryn Reklis, author of Theology and the Kinesthetic Imagination: Jonathan Edwards and the Making of Modernity

'Manca’s original insights about seeing beauty in the context of a simple life make Shaker Vision a useful complement . . . it is a worthwhile read for anyone interested in the visual culture of the valley of love and delight.'—New England Quarterly
JOSEPH MANCA is professor of art history and Nina J. Cullinan Professor of Art and Art History at Rice University. He is author of George Washington's Eye: Landscape, Architecture, and Design at Mount Vernon, which was awarded the Foundation for Landscape Studies' John Brinckerhoff Jackson Book Prize.
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