Cultivating Picturacy: Visual Art and Verbal Interventions

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Though English has no word for the visual counterpart to literacy, Heffernan argues that the capacity to interpret pictures must be cultivated and deserves a name: picturacy. Using examples such as the pre-historic cave paintings of Lascaux, film versions of Frankenstein, the provocative photographs of Sally Mann, and the abstract canvases of Gerhard Richter, the volume illustrates how learning to decode the language of pictures resembles the process of learning to read. While words typically frame and regulate our experience of art, the study also explains how pictures can contest the authority of the words we use to interpret art.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

During the past 25 years, James Heffernan's nuanced and clear-eyed writings on words and images have firmly placed him among the finest practitioners of interartstic theory and criticism. This new volume reveals him at his very best. Picturacy should be required reading for anyone wishing to learn how--and how not--to read pictures.

--Richard Wendorf, Stanford Calderwood Director and Librarian, The Boston Athenaeum

Wide-ranging, steadily insightful, and richly illustrated, Cultivating Picturacy offers both a method and a model for reading the visual image. Cultivating Picturacy will stand alongside the works of Norman Bryson, Nelson Goodman, and W. J. T. Mitchell as a fundamental contribution to the field of inter-art scholarship.

—Ernest B. Gilman, New York University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781932792416
  • Publisher: Baylor University Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/2006
  • Pages: 417
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

James A. W. Heffernan (Ph.D. Princeton) is Emeritus Professor of English at Dartmouth College.
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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

List of Abbreviations



1. Literacy and Picturacy: How Do We Learn to Read Pictures?

2. Speaking of Pictures: The Rhetoric of Art Criticism

3. Alberti on Apelles: Word and Image in De Pictura

4. Text and Design: Blake's Songs of Innocence and of Experience

5. Marginal Language: Word and Image in Blake's Visions of the Daughters of Albion

6. Painting Against Poetry: Reynolds' Discourses and the Discourse of Turner's Art

7. Wordsworth, Constable, and the Poetics of Chiaroscuro

8. Self-Representation in Byron's Poetry and Turner's Art

9. Looking at the Monster: Frankenstein and Film

10. Love, Death, and Grotesquerie: Beardsley's Illlustrations of Wilde's Salome and Pope's Rape of the Lock

11. Hockney Remakes Hogarth: A Gay Rake Progresses to America

12. Peter Milton's Turn: Painting, Photography, and Printmaking at the Turn of the Millennium

13. Reza, Pollock, Richter: Language and Abstract Art


Works Cited


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