‘Negative capability’ in wright morris’ the home place

David E. Nye

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


When Wright Morris’ photo-novel The Home Place appeared in 1948, documentary collaborations between writers and photographers had become common.(1) In the previous decade works such as You Have Seen Their Faces reached a large audience. As William Stott has demonstrated this genre often exploited its subjects, reducing tenant farmers to illustrations of social problems, in photographs that all too often stripped people of any dignity, showing faces of defeat and ignorance amid a landscape of poverty. The captions — such as, “Sometimes I tell my husband we couldn’t be worse off if we tried” — purported to be the words of those depicted but were often written by an urban author who was just passing through (2). The genre both culminated and exploded in Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, where James Agee and Walker Evans treated share-cropper families as equals with lives as unfathomable and complex as their own. They evaded the easy generalizations and condescension of the documentary, but remained troubled about how to approach the lives of their subjects without violating their integrity (3).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)163-169
Number of pages7
JournalWord and Image
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1988


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