Syracuse University Press

National Identities

Tricia Cusack

Series: Space, Place, and Society

6 x 9, 224 pages, 40 b/w illustrations, notes, bibliography, index

“A provocative and persuasive work. It provides a fresh perspective on the imagining of nations in the 'age of nationalism'.’’

Susan Mary Grant in Nations and Nationalism, January 2011.

"Cusack's writing is crisp and her theoretical framework concisely drawn. Riverscapes and National Identities is a model of interdisciplinary work in the arts, humanities, and social sciences." 

Harvey K. Flad, H-HistGeog, H-Net Reviews in the Humanities & Social Sciences, November 2011.

"For collections in art history, landscape architecture/history, geography, literature, political science, history, and environmental studies. Highly recommended." 

CHOICE (American Library Association), October 2010.

Painted riverscapes such as Claude Monet’s impressions of the Seine, Isaak Levitan’s Volga views, and Thomas Cole’s Hudson scenery became iconic not least because they embodied nationalist ideas about place and about culture. At a time when nationalism was taking root across Europe and the United States, the riverscape played an important role in transforming the abstract idea of the nation into a potent visual image. It not only offered a picture of a nation’s physical character, but also, through aspects such as style, the figures portrayed, and the nature of the implied spectator, it presented a cultural ideal.
    In this highly original book, Tricia Cusack explores the significance of painted riverscapes for the creation of national identities in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Europe and America. Focusing on five rivers—the Hudson, the Volga, the Seine, the Thames, and the Shannon—the author shows how just as ancient river mythologies served the ends of powerful religious and political groups, modern riverscapes incorporated dominant, often religious conceptions of the nation. Drawing on the symbolic potential of rivers to represent life and time, the riverscape provided a metaphor for the mythic stream of national history flowing unimpeded out of the past and into the future.

Framing the Ocean, 1700 to the Present: Envisaging the Sea as Social Space 
Edited volume published by Ashgate, April 2014 and re-issued by Routledge in paperback, 2016.

"Elegantly written, rigorously edited and well illustrated, Framing the Ocean, 1700 to the Present is, as one of its endorsers writes, 'a stellar contribution'. Analytical and wonder-filled, it will hopefully inspire ground-breaking scholarship on the visual and material culture of maritime studies in the years to come." 
Natasha Eaton, Reader in Art History, University College London, International Journal of Maritime History, 27 (3), 5.

"a thoughtful, richly detailed, and engagingly organized series of essays on the unique confluences between oceanic studies and the history of the visual arts. The range of subjects is exemplary: Romantic oceanscapes, shipwrecks, and travel narratives, yes, but also Indian Ocean dhows and mutineer typologies. Literature, painting, and sculpture link together iconographic studies of ocean liners and plastic pollution, natural histories, and coral collections, all rendered with ingenious scholarly imagination." Matt K. Matsuda, Rutgers University, author of Pacific Worlds.

"an important collection of essays, from an impressive international array of scholars and artists … The essays are lucid, accessible and imaginative, and the volume as a whole is well-balanced and clearly organized." 
Christiana Payne, Professor of History of Art, Oxford Brookes University.

"a stellar contribution from a galaxy of well-placed international scholars to a developing literature about the oceans"
John Mack, Chairman, The Sainsbury Institute for Art; Professor, School of Art History and World Art Studies, University of East Anglia.

Before the eighteenth century, the ocean was regarded as a repulsive and chaotic deep. Despite reinvention as a zone of wonder and pleasure, it continued to be viewed in the West and elsewhere as “uninhabited”, empty space. This collection, spanning the eighteenth century to the present, recasts the ocean as “social space”, with particular reference to visual representations. Part I focuses on mappings and crossings, showing how the ocean may function as a liminal space between places and cultures but also connects and imbricates them. Part II considers ships as microcosmic societies, shaped for example by the purpose of the voyage, the mores of shipboard life, and cross-cultural encounters. Part III analyses narratives accreted to wrecks and rafts, what has sunk or floats perilously, and discusses attempts to recuperate plastic flotsam. Part IV plumbs ocean depths to consider how underwater creatures have been depicted in relation to emergent disciplines of natural history and museology, how mermaids have been reimagined as a metaphor of feminist transformation, and how the symbolism of coral is deployed by contemporary artists. This engaging and erudite volume will interest a range of scholars in humanities and social sciences, including art and cultural historians, cultural geographers, and historians of empire, travel, and tourism.

‘An air of comfort and neatness which is seldom seen in Ireland’: The Bathing Resort and the Promised Land in Victorian Ulster: chapter in Tourism Histories in Ulster and Scotland edited by Kevin J. James and Eric G.E. Zuelow, published by the Ulster Historical Foundation, December 2013.

How places are represented and ‘the look of landscapes themselves’ are ‘active, constitutive elements in shaping social and spatial practices and the environments we occupy’. This chapter examines the development of the bathing resort in Victorian Ulster with particular reference to how its ‘look’ could be said to embody the values, identity and aspirations of the Protestant classes.

Art and Identity at the Water's Edge (edited, 2012)
"a valuable resource for scholarly academic libraries that support cross-disciplinary research in art, architecture, history, cultural studies, national identities, and land studies."  Beth Morris, Reference Library and Archives, Yale Center for British Art. 

This collection explores the marginal territory of the water's edge, whether river or sea, showing how art 'at the edge' has contributed to the making of cultural and national identities.

'A Living Art': Jack Yeats, travelling west and the critique of modernity: chapter in Jack B. Yeats: Old and New Departures.

Art, Nation and Genderco-edited, Ashgate 2003; reissued in paperback by Routledge, 2017.

All nations are premised upon particular divisions of gender, which frequently privilege men as historical and political agents, while associating women with household, family and tradition. Art, Nation and Gender explores the relations between nationalism and gender in different countries and how they have been embodied in various forms of visual art. As abstract concepts, the nation, and nationalism, have to be ‘embodied’ in ways that make them imaginable, especially through means of art. Nations invariably claim a national architecture, while national heroes, myths and allegories are embodied in various visual media from sculpture to illustration. The public visibility of architecture and sculpture, and the mass dissemination of printed art, create powerful tools for national expression, as well as the potential for critical interventions. Statues of heroic historical men abound in the public spaces of the nation-state as exemplars for the present, reflecting the fact that: ‘agency and power are invested in the male not the female body’ (Hayward in Hjort and MacKenzie 2000: 99). Meanwhile, the nation, with its abstract civic virtues, is commonly allegorised in images of stereotypical female figures. This volume will show how visual art has been employed both to help constitute, and occasionally to challenge, the way that nations claim internal unity, and yet systematically and across a variety of ‘national cultures’, relegate women to a secondary position in the activities of the modern state.


Tricia Cusack was educated at Homerton College, Cambridge, the Open University, and the University of Edinburgh. She taught for many years concurrently at the Open University and Cardiff Metropolitan University, then at the University of Birmingham. Her research focuses on intersections of  visual art, cultural histories, and place, including aquatic spaces
She has published in many (and diverse!) academic journals including Art History, New Formations, Construction HistoryVisual Culture in Britain, National Identities, Nations and Nationalism, The Irish Review and the Journal of Tourism History. Riverscapes and National Identities (Syracuse University Press) was published in 2010. Tricia co-edited Art, Nation and Gender: Ethnic landscapes, myths and mother-figures (Ashgate 2003) with Sighle Bhreathnach-Lynch. Art and Identity at the Water's Edge (Ashgate), an edited collection of original and engaging essayswas published in 2012. Framing the Ocean, 1700 to the Present: Envisaging the Sea as Social Space  an exciting new essay collection, was published by Ashgate in 2014. Sadly, Ashgate, a terrific publisher in my experience, was taken over by Taylor & Francis. However, since then, Routledge has issued two of my books in paperback: Framing the Ocean, 1700 to the Present and Art and Identity at the Water's Edge (both 2016). Book chapters include "‘An air of comfort and neatness which is seldom seen in Ireland’: The Bathing Resort and the Promised Land in Victorian Ulster" in Tourism Histories in Ulster and Scotland edited by Kevin J. James and Eric G.E. Zuelow, (Ulster Historical Foundation 2013). 
Tricia's early published work on the history of ferro-concrete architecture in Britain is still being taken up, for instance in Adrian Forty's book on "Concrete and Culture" (2012). In recent work, Tricia has been studying, writing about, and speaking on the cultural history of tea in England, Ireland, and the US. '“This pernicious tea drinking habit”: Women, Tea, and Respectability in Nineteenth-Century Ireland' was published in the Canadian Journal of Irish Studies spring 2018
She is on the editorial board of National Identities 

In press: 

“Looking over the Ship Railings: Empire Marketing Board Posters, the Colonial Voyage, and the Empty Ocean” in Empty Spaces: Confronting Emptiness in National, Cultural and Urban History (Institute of Historical Research, University of London).