Snapshots: On the Value of Photo/Sensitivity


The article offers an comparative insight into two, parallel, narratives concerning a nautical event: one visual, and one verbal.  The argument is based on the juxtaposition of Robert Cushman Murphy's photographic rendition of the so-called Nantucket sleigh ride (the stage of a whale hunt, in which the harpooned animal, attempting to flee his oppressors, tows the whaleboat behind him) with his description of the same phenomenon, which he included in his diary A Logbook for Grace. Whaling Brig Daisy 1912–1913 (first published only in 1947). The reflections stemming from the analysis concern the importance of the Barthesian punctum in the context of the interpretive power of the image, which, ultimately, leads to conclusions concerning the significance of emotions in the hermeneutic process of filling the spots of indeterminacy. Ultimately, the article demonstrates how, through his glass lantern images, Robert Cushman Murphy offers his audiences the “realist” truth, employing “modernist means” to “romantically” emulate the emotions. 


photography; cultural theory; literary theory; epistemology; Robert Cushman Murphy; Nantucket Sleigh Ride

Barthes, Roland. Camera Lucida. Reflections on Photography. Translated by Richard Howard. Hill and Wang, 1981.

Barthes, Roland. The Pleasure of the Text. Translated by Richard Miller With a Note on the Text by Richard Howard. Hill and Wang, 1975.

Heidegger, Martin. Being and Time. Translated by Joan Stambaugh. Revised and with a Foreword by Dennis J. Schmidt. State University of New York Press, 2010.

Melville, Herman. “The Etchings of a Whaling Cruise, with Notes of a Sojourn on the Island of Zanzibar. To which is appended, a Brief History of the Whale Fishery; its Past and Present Condition. By J. Ross Browne. Illustrated with numerous Engravings on Steel and Wood. Harper & Brothers: 1846. 8vo. Sailors’ Life and Sailors’ Yarns. By Captain Ringbolt. New York: C. S. Francis & Co. 1847. 12mo.” The Literary World, vol. 1, 1847, p. 105. Accessed Dec. 10 2022.

Murphy, Robert Cushman. A Logbook for Grace. Whaling Brig Daisy 1912–1913. With a New Introduction by George Gaylord Simpson. Time Incorporated. 1965.

Olson, Charles. Call Me Ishmael. Grove Press, Inc, and Evergreen Books, Ltd., 1947.

Published : 2022-12-31

JędrzejkoP. (2022). Snapshots: On the Value of Photo/Sensitivity. Review of International American Studies, 15(2), 5-18.

Paweł Jędrzejko
University of Silesia in Katowice, Poland  Poland

Paweł Jędrzejko's research interests include literary and cultural theory, history of literature, comparative cultural studies, translation theory and philosophy. Departing from the assumption of the aporetic (ontic/discursive) character of reality, Jędrzejko fosters research penetrating the common grounds of human cognitive experience and creative activity and focusing upon the complex interdependencies between individual awareness of the worldmaking power of language and the shape of daily interpersonal and intercultural relations. The areas of his particular interest include the philosophy of friendship, the philosophy of existence, the history of 19th century American literature, the literary philosophies of the "American Renaissance" the oeuvre of Herman Melville, postcolonial and post-dependence theories, as well as translation theories.
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Pawel Jedrzejko, D.Litt, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of American Literature
Institute of Literary Studies
Faculty of Humanities
University of Silesia in Katowice
ul. Gen. Stefana Grota-Roweckiego 5
41-205 Sosnowiec

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