In Shaker Vision, Joseph Manca explores original texts, especially diaries and travel journals, and material culture to demonstrate that Shakers enjoyed a remarkably deep experience of the visual world. Shakers shared tastes with mainstream Americans and often employed a similar aesthetic vocabulary, but all within a belief system that made them distinct. In addition to their well-known ascetic architecture, furniture, and handicraft styles, they expressed themselves through ornate and detailed spiritual art and in vivid, visionary experiences. Based on firsthand accounts of the believers themselves, this richly illustrated volume will dramatically change how we assess the visual world of this uniquely American religious sect.
"An engaging account of the place and function of beauty in the life and experience of the early Shaker community."—Stephen J. Stein, author of The Shaker Experience in America: A History of the United Society of Believers
"Drawing from Shaker household journals, travelogues, letters, laws, visions, hymns, and apostate writings, penned by women and men, and representing many of the communities extant in the early to mid-nineteenth century, Manca shows us how Shakers saw themselves and the world around them . . . [This is] an impressive and useful study of early Shaker vision."—Winterthur Portfolio
"This meticulously researched and masterfully documented study of early Shaker attitudes toward beauty will appeal to anyone interested in Shaker culture and history."—Kathryn Reklis, author of Theology and the Kinesthetic Imagination: Jonathan Edwards and the Making of Modernity
"Manca’s original insights about seeing beauty in the context of a simple life make Shaker Vision a useful complement . . . it is a worthwhile read for anyone interested in the visual culture of the valley of love and delight."—New England Quarterly