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By E. M. Forster

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This book takes such claims not as mere authorial modesty or tropes of ineffability but as signal moments in some Ameri­can prose realists’ encounters with visual and graphic artists. Literary realists tended to negotiate openly how “real” their narratives would be, what their characters and narrators would and would not “see,” against the backdrops of visual artwork, which could depict, or not depict, subjects and objects to be seen. Literary artists meditate in print as to what the written medium could “do” to recreate a visually realistic world relative to another medium’s capacities to do so.

6 He writes to Wharton in resignation that he cannot attempt—not in resolution to attempt—to get her to like the “common fate” of portraiture, which he knows will nonetheless accompany her prose. What Burlingame knows is inimical to the author, rendering her characters visually is still a necessity in marketing the author’s prose. All of these instances reflect writers’ negotiations of publishing space increas­ ingly occupied and dominated by and, indeed, packaged and marketed by means of supposedly superior visual arts.

If Edith Wharton had had her way, Lily Bart would have appeared without illustrations. Wharton’s illustrator only stood a chance if he scandalously and luridly depicted the gaffes and faux pas that Wharton’s characters tactfully and discreetly concealed. Pauline Hopkins, more so than these other authors, overcomes artistic rivalries as an illustrated magazine’s contributing editor. Her novels visually and verbally reverse racial conventions, revising Huckleberry Finn’s and Uncle Tom’s Cabin’s iconic frontispieces in turn and bringing my study’s coda full circle.

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