Walking: Steps Toward a Visual History
Walking is one of the most "natural" human practices, yet the ways that people walk are deeply conditioned by an array of social forces that demand multidisciplinary study. Since the 1990s, scholars have paid increasing attention to the cultural history of walking: the codes, constructs, and ideologies that govern how, where, and why people walk. Literary accounts of walking especially have received much attention, but strikingly there is no substantial exploration of the visual record, of how key images have helped to shape the meaning of walking over the centuries. In Paris I will use the city's exceptional resources to research the French role in the visual construction of the modern walker, from the promenade to the dérive to GPS mapping.
William Chapman Sharpe is professor of English at Barnard College, Columbia University, where he specializes in the literature, art, and culture of the modern city, particularly New York. His work has been supported by grants and fellowships from the Mellon Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. He is editor of "The Victorian Age," volume of The Longman Anthology of British Literature. His book on images of New York City at night, called New York Nocturne: The City After Dark in Art, Literature, and Photography (Princeton University Press, 2008), won the MSA Book Prize of the Modernist Studies Association. His latest book, Grasping Shadows: The Dark Side of Literature, Painting, Photography, and Film (Oxford University Press, 2017), has recently been named a Choice Outstanding Academic Title. Professor Sharpe's current research explores the cultural history of walking, particularly in cities, as well as the emergence of walking as an artistic practice since the 1960s. In Paris he will be working on a visual history of walking, from the first human footprints to the first step on the moon.