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On the Uselessness of Knowledge: William F. Lynch's "Interesting" Expedition to the Dead Sea

On the Uselessness of Knowledge: William F. Lynch's "Interesting" Expedition to the Dead Sea <p>ABSTRACT:</p><p>In 1848, U.S. Navy Lieutenant William F. Lynch traveled to Ottoman Palestine to lead a bold expedition down the Jordan River and around the Dead Sea. This expedition&apos;s stated objectives were to demonstrate American one-upmanship, solve some scientific questions regarding the region&apos;s geographical anomalies, and find the remains of the biblical Sodom and Gomorrah. None of these objectives were more than partially met. The present essay looks for this episode&apos;s meaning and value within a different realm: that of the rapidly-expanding print marketplace. Beyond fulfilling particular national, religious, or scientific interests, it argues, Lynch&apos;s expedition was promoted by reporters, editors, and authors as interesting. The essay thus proposes a different view of the role of knowledge in nineteenth-century culture, not in terms of its usefulness, but in its appealing uselessness. Paradoxically, it shows, Lynch&apos;s expedition was most useful precisely where it failed to obtain the knowledge it promoted as its goal, a failure that insured continued public curiosity about the Dead Sea and its religious significance.</p> http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of the Early Republic University of Pennsylvania Press

On the Uselessness of Knowledge: William F. Lynch&apos;s "Interesting" Expedition to the Dead Sea

Journal of the Early Republic , Volume 38 (3) – Sep 26, 2018

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Publisher
University of Pennsylvania Press
Copyright
Copyright © Society for Historians of the Early American Republic.
ISSN
1553-0620

Abstract

<p>ABSTRACT:</p><p>In 1848, U.S. Navy Lieutenant William F. Lynch traveled to Ottoman Palestine to lead a bold expedition down the Jordan River and around the Dead Sea. This expedition&apos;s stated objectives were to demonstrate American one-upmanship, solve some scientific questions regarding the region&apos;s geographical anomalies, and find the remains of the biblical Sodom and Gomorrah. None of these objectives were more than partially met. The present essay looks for this episode&apos;s meaning and value within a different realm: that of the rapidly-expanding print marketplace. Beyond fulfilling particular national, religious, or scientific interests, it argues, Lynch&apos;s expedition was promoted by reporters, editors, and authors as interesting. The essay thus proposes a different view of the role of knowledge in nineteenth-century culture, not in terms of its usefulness, but in its appealing uselessness. Paradoxically, it shows, Lynch&apos;s expedition was most useful precisely where it failed to obtain the knowledge it promoted as its goal, a failure that insured continued public curiosity about the Dead Sea and its religious significance.</p>

Journal

Journal of the Early RepublicUniversity of Pennsylvania Press

Published: Sep 26, 2018

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