Motherland: Sally Mann’s Proustian Song of the Earth

Part of the Analecta Husserliana book series (ANHU, volume 71)


In this paper I intend to study in depth selected images from Sally Mann’s landscape photography, which have recently been published in a collection memorably entitled Motherland, in an attempt to understand the literary and philosophical underpinnings of the work, which are hinted at by Mann’s assertion in the fascinating introduction to the collection that “Southerners embrace the Proustian concept that the only true paradise is a lost paradise”1 (Mann, 5). While the artist’s introduction stresses the hold of the South on her visual and poetic imagination (“It is a Southern pastime to wallow in family and laud the distinctive light and spiritualize the rivers”), and the Motherland exhibit was accompanied by an excerpt from Shelby Foote’s Shiloh lamenting the South’s “incurable romanticism and misplaced chivalry ... too much Walter Scott and Dumas” (ibid), I suggest that the Proustian presence in these images transcends the utopian/dystopian dichotomy to express startling explorations of a wide variety of topics related to the great French author.2 These topics include the foreshadowing of the apocalypse, a dimension of Proust’s work rarely discussed in current debate3 which is, however, present in the landscapes of Combray as well as in the surrealistic “nighttown” of wartime Paris, and which in Mann’s work acquires disturbing millennarian overtones; and the exploration of landscape in terms of feminine sexuality, present in Proust most compellingly perhaps in the highly eroticised “paysages” of Roussainville and Montjouvain as well as the troubled river banks of the Vivonne4 and which Mann translates visually through manipulation of her imagery rather than merely capturing “feminine” elements of landscape.5


Sally MANN Philosophical Underpinning Lost Paradise Chinese Poetry Bare Tree 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Barthes, Roland. Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. New York: Hill and Wang, 1981.Google Scholar
  2. Coleman. A. D. “Letter from New York, No. 83.” Photo-Metro Volume 17, Issue 152.Google Scholar
  3. Corn, Alfred. “Photography Degree Zero.” Art in America, January 1998: 88–91.Google Scholar
  4. Davidov, Judith Fryer. Women’s Camera Work: Self/Body/Other in American Visual Culture. Durham: Duke University Press, 1998.Google Scholar
  5. Grundberg, Andy. “Mann Acts.” See: A Journal Of Visual Culture. Issue 1:3, 34–39.Google Scholar
  6. Harris, Melissa. “On Location with Sally Mann.” Aperture 138: Winter 1995: 24–35.Google Scholar
  7. Mavor, Carol. Pleasures Taken: Performances of Sexuality and Loss in Victorian Photographs. Durham: Duke University Press, 1995.Google Scholar
  8. Mann, Sally. At Twelve. Introduction by Ann Beattie. New York: Aperture, 1988.Google Scholar
  9. —. Motherland. New York: Edwyn Houk Gallery, 1997.Google Scholar
  10. McKenna, Andrew. “Proust’s Apocalypse Now.” In Reading Proust Now, edited by Mary Ann Caws. New York: Peter Lang Publishers, 1990.Google Scholar
  11. Oliver, Ron. Between Memories and Dreams. Paris: Monograph and the Platinum Image, 1998.Google Scholar
  12. Proust, Marcel. Remembrance of Things Past, in three volumes. Translated by Terence Kilmartin. London: Penguin Books, 1981.Google Scholar
  13. Rosasco, Joan. Voies de l’imagination proustienne. Paris: Nizet, 1980.Google Scholar
  14. Strauss, David. “Sally Mann.” ArtForum, February 1998: 86.Google Scholar
  15. Sturges, Jock. The Last Day of Summer. Introduction by Jayne Anne Phillips. New York: Aperture, 1991.Google Scholar
  16. —. Standing on Water. Introduction by Paula Marincola. Paul Cava Gallery, 1991.Google Scholar
  17. Watson, Bruce. Les Figures du labyrinthe dans À la recherche du temps perdu. New York: Peter Lang Publishers, 1992.Google Scholar
  18. —. “Apples without Snakes: Proust’s Sapphic/Organic Rewritings of Eden.” Analecta Husserliana Volume XLIV Kluwer Academic Publishers: 59–70.Google Scholar
  19. Woodward, Richard. “The Disturbing Photography of Sally Mann.” New York Times magazine, September 27, 1992: 46–54.Google Scholar
  20. Yoshida, Jo. “Proust au Japon.” in Le magazine littéraire. March 1987: 58–59.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2001

Authors and Affiliations

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations