'There is another loneliness', wrote the American poet Emily Dickinson: 'Not want of friend occasions it, but nature sometimes, sometimes thought'. For Kevin Lewis, that 'other loneliness' is uniquely expressive of a rich and resonant state of being that is distinctive to the American psyche as well as central to the mythology of America itself. He calls this state of being 'lonesomeness'. It evokes the luminous landscapes of the West and the cathedral-like space of the Great Plains. It lies at the root of personal identity and is inseparable from notions of personal discovery and of communion with the varied topography of the United States, whether it be rural hinterland or industrial urban rustbelt.In this continuously stimulating reflection, Kevin Lewis explores - in religion, poetry, fiction, country songwriting and art - the multiple meanings of that peculiarly American notion of solitariness.
Discussing quintessential American writers like Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman, Jack Kerouac and Ernest Hemingway - creative artists who have all embraced positive conceptions of solitude and wilderness - Lewis finds the apex of American lonesomeness in the melancholic and reflective paintings of Edward Hopper. Lewis argues that in expressive works like "Nighthawks" and "Morning Sun" one sees Hopper's solitude redeemed by 'something more': by the notion that in isolation the individual may yet be touched by transcendence. Kevin Lewis argues that those echoes of 'something else' reveal a great deal about the American character that we would do well to heed, as well as deep rooted cultural attitudes towards religion, individualism and self-belief.
Kevin Lewis is Associate Professor and Graduate Director in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of South Carolina. His previous publications include The Appeal of Muggletonianism and The Changing Shape of Protestantism in the South.