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Facing FactsRealism in American Thought and Culture, 1850–1920$
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David E. Shi

Print publication date: 1996

Print ISBN-13: 9780195106534

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195106534.001.0001

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New Paths

New Paths

Chapter:
(p.26) 2 New Paths
Source:
Facing Facts
Author(s):

David E. Shi

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195106534.003.0003

At the same time that journalists and editors were celebrating the vibrant new urban culture emerging in the United States at the point of mid-century, several commentators were criticizing the slavish dependence of American architects on classical or medieval styles. Those promoting an indigenous American architecture found an ardent advocate in the Boston-born sculptor Horatio Greenough with his new “functionalist” theory. However, the most fervent celebrant of the “triumph of the real” during the 1850s was a writer hardly known today: Charles Godfrey Leland who became the spirited editor of Philadelphia's struggling Graham's Monthly late in 1856. Leland brought a fresh conviction that America had reached a transitional stage in its cultural history. Leland discovered in Walt Whitman the epitome of the vigorous new cultural outlook he advocated. By rooting romantic idealism in an affection for everyday realities, Whitman became the most potent catalyst for change in 19th-century American culture with genteel conservatism and domestic sentimentalism.

Keywords:   America, architecture, Horatio Greenough, functionalist theory, Charles Godfrey Leland, Graham's Monthly, Walt Whitman, genteel conservatism, domestic sentimentalism

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