"The art historian after Erwin Panofsky and Ernst Gombrich is not only participating in an activity of great intellectual excitement; he is raising and exploring issues which lie very much at the centre of psychology, of the sciences and of history itself. Svetlana Alpers's study of 17th-century Dutch painting is a splendid example of this excitement and of the centrality of art history among current disciples. Professor Alpers puts forward a vividly argued thesis. There is, she says, a truly fundamental dichotomy between the art of the Italian Renaissance and that of the Dutch masters. . . . Italian art is the primary expression of a 'textual culture,' this is to say of a culture which seeks emblematic, allegorical or philosophical meanings in a serious painting. Alberti, Vasari and the many other theoreticians of the Italian Renaissance teach us to 'read' a painting, and to read it in depth so as to elicit and construe its several levels of signification. The world of Dutch art, by the contrast, arises from and enacts a truly 'visual culture.' It serves and energises a system of values in which meaning is not 'read' but 'seen,' in which new knowledge is visually recorded."—George Steiner, Sunday Times
"There is no doubt that thanks to Alpers's highly original book the study of the Dutch masters of the seventeenth century will be thoroughly reformed and rejuvenated. . . . She herself has the verve, the knowledge, and the sensitivity to make us see familiar sights in a new light."—E. H. Gombrich, New York Review of Books
Drawing on a broad foundation in the history of nineteenth-century French art, Richard Shiff offers an innovative interpretation of Cézanne's painting. He shows how Cézanne's style met the emerging criteria of a "technique of originality" and how it satisfied critics sympathetic to symbolism as well as to impressionism. Expanding his study of the interaction of Cézanne and his critics, Shiff considers the problem of modern art in general. He locates the core of modernism in a dialectic of making (technique) and finding (originality). Ultimately, Shiff provides not only clarifying accounts of impressionism and symbolism but of a modern classicism as well.
In this brilliant essay, Jacques Derrida explores issues of
vision, blindness, self-representation, and their relation to
drawing, while offering detailed readings of an extraordinary
collection of images. Selected by Derrida from the prints
and drawings department of the Louvre, the works depict
blindness—fictional, historical, and biblical. From Old
and New Testament scenes to the myth of Perseus and the
Gorgon and the blinding of Polyphemus, Derrida uncovers in
these images rich, provocative layers of interpretation.
For Derrida drawing is itself blind; as an act rooted in
memory and anticipation, drawing necessarily replaces one
kind of seeing (direct) with another (mediated). Ultimately,
he explains, the very lines which compose any drawing are
themselves never fully visible to the viewer since they exist
only in a tenuous state of multiple identities: as marks on
a page, as indicators of a contour. Lacking a "pure"
identity, the lines of a drawing summon the supplement of the
word, of verbal discourse, and, in doing so, obscure the
visual experience. Consequently, Derrida demonstrates, the
very act of depicting a blind person undertakes multiple
enactments and statements of blindness and sight.
Memoirs of the Blind is both a sophisticated
philosophical argument and a series of detailed readings.
Derrida provides compelling insights into famous and lesser
known works, interweaving analyses of texts—including
Diderot's Lettres sur les aveugles, the notion of
mnemonic art in Baudelaire's The Painter of Modern Life, and Merleau-Ponty's The Visible and the Invisible. Along with engaging meditations on the history
and philosophy of art, Derrida reveals the ways viewers
approach philosophical ideas through art, and the ways art
enriches philosophical reflection.
An exploration of sight, representation, and art, Memoirs of the Blind extends and deepens the
meditation on vision and painting presented in Truth and Painting. Readers of Derrida, both new and familiar, will
profit from this powerful contribution to the study of the
“The longer you work, the more the mystery deepens of what appearance is, or how what is called appearance can be made in another medium."—Francis Bacon, painter
This, in a nutshell, is the central problem in the theory of art. It has fascinated philosophers from Plato to Wittgenstein. And it fascinates artists and art historians, who have always drawn extensively on philosophical ideas about language and representation, and on ideas about vision and the visible world that have deep philosophical roots.
John Hyman’s The Objective Eye is a radical treatment of this problem, deeply informed by the history of philosophy and science, but entirely fresh. The questions tackled here are fundamental ones: Is our experience of color an illusion? How does the metaphysical status of colors differ from that of shapes? What is the difference between a picture and a written text? Why are some pictures said to be more realistic than others? Is it because they are especially truthful or, on the contrary, because they deceive the eye?
The Objective Eye explores the fundamental concepts we use constantly in our most innocent thoughts and conversations about art, as well as in the most sophisticated art theory. The book progresses from pure philosophy to applied philosophy and ranges from the metaphysics of color to Renaissance perspective, from anatomy in ancient Greece to impressionism in nineteenth-century France. Philosophers, art historians, and students of the arts will find The Objective Eye challenging and absorbing.
A study of how film has continually intervened in our sense of perception, with far-ranging insights into the current state of lived experience
How has cinema transformed our senses, and how does it continue to do so? Positing film as a stage in the long coevolution of human consciousness and visual technology, Postcinematic Vision offer a fresh perspective on the history of film while providing startling new insights into the so-called divide between cinematic and digital media.
Starting with the argument that film viewing has long altered neural circuitry in our brains, Roger F. Cook proceeds to reevaluate film’s origins, as well as its merger with digital imaging in the 1990s. His animating argument is that film has continually altered the relation between media and human perception, challenging the visual nature of modern culture in favor of a more unified, pan-sensual way of perceiving. Through this approach, he makes original contributions to our understanding of how mediation is altering lived experience.
Along the way, Cook provides important reevaluations of well-known figures such as Franz Kafka, closely reading cinematic passages in the great author’s work; he reassesses the conventional wisdom that Marshall McLuhan was a technological determinist; and he lodges an original new reading of The Matrix. Full of provocative and far-reaching ideas, Postcinematic Vision is a powerful work that helps us see old concepts anew while providing new ideas for future investigation.
Perspective determines how we, as viewers, perceive painting. We can convince ourselves that a painting of a bowl of fruit or a man in a room appears to be real by the way these objects are rendered. Likewise, the trick of perspective can prevent us from being absorbed in a scene. Connecting contemporary critical theory with close readings of seventeenth-century Dutch visual culture, The Rhetoric of Perspective puts forth the claim that painting is a form of thinking and that perspective functions as the language of the image.
Aided by a stunning full-color gallery, Hanneke Grootenboer proposes a new theory of perspective based on the phenomenological aspects of non-narrative still-life, trompe l'oeil, and anamorphic imagery. Drawing on playful and mesmerizing baroque images, Grootenboer characterizes what she calls their "sophisticated deceit," asserting that painting is more about visual representation than about its supposed objects.
Offering an original theory of perspective's impact on pictorial representation, the act of looking, and the understanding of truth in painting, Grootenboer shows how these paintings both question the status of representation and explore the limits and credibility of perception.
“An elegant and honourable synthesis.”—Keith Miller, Times Literary Supplement
The two thought-provoking, extended essays that make up Stories We Tell Ourselves draw from the author’s richly diverse experiences and history, taking the reader on a deeply pleasurable walk to several unexpectedly profound destinations. A steady accumulation of fascinating science, psychoanalytic theory, and cultural history—ranging as far and wide as neuro-ophthalmology, ancient dream interpretation, and the essential differences between Jung and Freud—is smoothly intermixed with vivid anecdotes, entertaining digressions, and a disarming willingness to risk everything in the course of a revealing personal narrative.
“Dream Life” plumbs the depth of dreams—conceptually, biologically, and as the nursery of our most meaningful metaphors—as it considers dreams and dreaming every whichway: from the haruspicy of the Roman Empire to contemporary sleep and dream science, from the way birds dream to the way babies do, from our longing to tell them to the reasons we wish other people wouldn’t.
“Seeing Things” recounts a journey of mother and daughter—a Holmes-and-Watson pair intrepidly working their way through the mysteries of a disorder known as Alice in Wonderland Syndrome—even as it restlessly detours into the world beyond the looking glass of the unconscious itself. In essays that constantly offer layers of surprises and ever-deeper insights, the author turns a powerful lens on the relationships that make up a family, on expertise and unsatisfying diagnoses, on science and art and the pleasures of contemplation and inquiry—and on our fears, regrets, hopes, and (of course) dreams.
Nick Sousanis Harvard University Press, 2015 Library of Congress BF241.S645 2015 | Dewey Decimal 153.7
The primacy of words over images has deep roots in Western culture. But what if the two are inextricably linked in meaning-making? In this experiment in visual thinking, drawn in comics, Nick Sousanis defies conventional discourse to offer readers a stunning work of graphic art and a serious inquiry into the ways humans construct knowledge.
Baer, Nicholas Rutgers University Press, 2019 Library of Congress B105.I47U59 2019 | Dewey Decimal 153.32
We all have images that we find unwatchable, whether for ethical, political, or sensory and affective reasons. From news coverage of terror attacks to viral videos of police brutality, and from graphic horror films to transgressive artworks, many of the images in our media culture might strike us as unsuitable for viewing. Yet what does it mean to proclaim something “unwatchable”: disturbing, revolting, poor, tedious, or literally inaccessible?
With over 50 original essays by leading scholars, artists, critics, and curators, this is the first book to trace the “unwatchable” across our contemporary media environment, in which viewers encounter difficult content on various screens and platforms. Appealing to a broad academic and general readership, the volume offers multidisciplinary approaches to the vast array of troubling images that circulate in global visual culture.
During the nineteenth century, Britain became the first gaslit society, with electric lighting arriving in 1878. At the same time, the British government significantly expanded its power to observe and monitor its subjects. How did such enormous changes in the way people saw and were seen affect Victorian culture?
To answer that question, Chris Otter mounts an ambitious history of illumination and vision in Britain, drawing on extensive research into everything from the science of perception and lighting technologies to urban design and government administration. He explores how light facilitated such practices as safe transportation and private reading, as well as institutional efforts to collect knowledge. And he contends that, contrary to presumptions that illumination helped create a society controlled by intrusive surveillance, the new radiance often led to greater personal freedom and was integral to the development of modern liberal society.
The Victorian Eye’s innovative interdisciplinary approach—and generous illustrations—will captivate a range of readers interested in the history of modern Britain, visual culture, technology, and urbanization.
For some women writers and photographers during the two world wars—Edith Wharton, Mildred Aldrich, Martha Gellhorn, Lee Miller, H.D., and Gertrude Stein—the construction of the female subject as an observer of combat became a vital concern. Their explorations of vision took place against the backdrop of a larger shift in Western culture's understanding of what "seeing" meant in common practice and philosophical discourse alike. The role of visuality in their lives was massively transformed not only by the rigid gender roles of war but by the introduction of new combat practices and technologies such as aerial surveillance, trench warfare, and civilian bombardment.
In The World Wars Through the Female Gaze, Jean Gallagher maps one portion of the historicized, gendered territory of what Nancy K. Miller calls the "gaze in representation." Expanding the notion of the gaze in critical discourse, Gallagher situates a number of visual acts within specific historic contexts to reconstruct the wartime female subject. She looks at both the female observer's physical act of seeing—and the refusal to see—for example, a battlefield, a wounded soldier, a torture victim, a national flag, a fashion model, a bombed city, or a wartime hallucination.
The book begins with two instances of wartime propaganda written by American women in France in 1915. Both Edith Wharton's Fighting France and Mildred Aldrich's A Hilltop on the Marne offer a complex and often contradictory sense of a woman writer's struggles with authority, resistance, and killing. In the process, Gallagher teases out the role of specular vision and the impossibility of "directly" seeing the war.
Gallagher then turns to literary and visual texts produced by two female journalists between 1940 and 1945. Martha Gellhorn's 1940 novel A Stricken Field exhibits a range of gendered seeing positions within and in opposition to the visual ideologies of fascism during the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia. Lee Miller's war correspondence and photography for Vogue show how Miller constructed herself and her predominantly female American audience as antifascist observers of war by working with and against some of the conventions of surrealist fashion photography.
Gallagher concludes by focusing on the experimental autobiographical prose of H.D. and Gertrude Stein to explore the functions of vision on two World War II "homefronts"—London during the Blitz and Vichy France.