Visual Culture Program
In this talk, John Brewer examines the changing debate about how the history and aesthetics of Mount Vesuvius and the cities destroyed in its eruption in 79 C.E. were used in the Age of Revolutions. Novels, poems, paintings, panoramas, and mechanical models propagated a revolutionary view of Vesuvius as a force of regenerative destruction. By the early 19th century, a conservative reinterpretation challenged this view, harkening back to a Christian idea of volcanic eruption as divine retribution, while also recasting Vesuvius as a force for continuity and conservation.
Brewer joined the Caltech faculty in 2001, after holding faculty positions at Cambridge, Harvard (where he was Chair of the History and Literature program), and UCLA (where he was Director of the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library). He is the author of several books, including The Sinews of Power. War, Money and the English State, 1688–1783 (1990); The Pleasures of the Imagination. English Culture in the Eighteenth Century (1997; re-issued 2013); and The American Leonardo. A Tale of Obsession, Art, and Money (2009).
About the Visual Culture Program
The Caltech-Huntington Program in Visual Culture, which is funded by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and based in the Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS), features undergraduate course offerings, guest lecturers, and other programming to foster conversations between humanists and scientists. Its activities are organized by HSS and other Caltech faculty in collaboration with scholars at The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens.