Framing Magaret Fuller

Framing Margaret Fuller

One of the pleasures of surveying and studying an archive is the encounter with the material objects that complement, and often times problematize the paper documents: drawings, locks of hair, daguerreotypes, photographs, mementos. Through these objects the vigorous reality and persistence of the archive acquires more force, it becomes thicker, as it comprehends added dimensions, including a more personal relation between the observer and the object. The Fuller Family Papers housed at the Houghton Library is this kind of archive, with some memorable objects that have helped establish, over the decades, the scholarly perception of Margaret Fuller. The images of Margaret Fuller that we know and are familiar with, have helped shape our scholarly relation with her and her work, but, even more interestingly, are part of how the archive has been constructed. The attention provided in recent years to photography studies and material culture has favored, as Dana Luciano states, “a more capacious critical gaze, one capable of attending more closely to the photograph’s synesthetic and emotional appeal,” in what she names a “touching sight, in both sense of the term.” (Dana Luciano, “Touching Seeing,” American Literary History, 28, 1, Spring 2016, p. 140).

By providing a gallery of all the images relating to Margaret Fuller, we intend to reflect on how they have shaped “Fuller” for the scholars who have encountered her, helping to construct a certain literary character. In order to contextualize these images we include all the bibliographic information currently available, in an effort to consider also Fuller’s and her family’s awareness of the production, consumption and use of images, including the innovative significance of daguerreotypes in the 1840s.

This exhibit features a number of images from Fuller's life, including her time in Europe. They are available courtesy of Harvard University Libraries and Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Graphic Arts Library.