Nymphsby Giorgio Agamben
In 1900, art historians André Jolles and Aby Warburg constructed an experimental dialogue in which Jolles supposed he had fallen in love with the figure of a young woman in a painting: “A fantastic figureshall I call her a servant girl, or rather a classical nymph?…what is the meaning of it all?…Who is the nymph? Where does she… See more details below
In 1900, art historians André Jolles and Aby Warburg constructed an experimental dialogue in which Jolles supposed he had fallen in love with the figure of a young woman in a painting: “A fantastic figureshall I call her a servant girl, or rather a classical nymph?…what is the meaning of it all?…Who is the nymph? Where does she come from?” Warburg’s response: “in essence she is an elemental spirit, a pagan goddess in exile,” serves as the touchstone for this wide-ranging and theoretical exploration of female representation in iconography.
In Nymphs, the newest translation of Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben’s work, the author notes that academic research has lingered on the “pagan goddess,” while the concept of “elemental spirit,” ignored by scholars, is vital to the history of iconography. Tracing the genealogy of this idea, Agamben goes on to examine subjects as diverse as the aesthetic theories of choreographer Domineco da Piacenza, Friedrich Theodor Vischer’s essay on the “symbol,” Walter Benjamin’s concept of the dialectic image, and the bizarre discoveries of photographer Nathan Lerner in 1972. From these investigations, there emerges a startlingly original exploration of the ideas of time and the image.
Agamben is the rare writer whose ideas and works have a broad appeal across many fields, and Nymphs will engage not only the author’s devoted fans in philosophy, legal theory, sociology, and literary criticism, but his growing audience among art theorists and historians as well.
Meet the Author
Giorgio Agamben is the author of more than fifteen books on topics ranging from aesthetics to poetics, ontology to political philosophy. He is best known for his Homo Sacer series. In 2012, Seagull Books has published Agamben’s The Church and the Kingdom and The Unspeakable Girl.Kevin McLaughlin is the Nicholas Brown Professor of Oratory and Belles Lettres and professor of English, comparative literature and German studies at Brown University, Providence, RI. He is the author of two books: Writing in Parts: Imitation and Exchange in 19th-Century Literature and Paperwork: Fiction and Mass Mediacy in the Paper Age. He is also cotranslator of Walter Benjamin’s The Arcades Project. Amanda Minervini teaches Italian Studies at Brown University, Providence, RI.
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