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Picture Theory: Essays on Verbal and Visual Representation

Overview

In Iconology, W. J. T. Mitchell asked what images are, how they differ from words, and why these questions have been such a source of contention for centuries. In this companion volume to Iconology, he extends his investigation to pictures--the concrete, representational objects in which images appear.

Although we have thousands of words about pictures, Mitchell notes that we do not yet have a satisfactory theory of them. What we have is a variety of disciplines--semiotics, ...

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Overview

In Iconology, W. J. T. Mitchell asked what images are, how they differ from words, and why these questions have been such a source of contention for centuries. In this companion volume to Iconology, he extends his investigation to pictures--the concrete, representational objects in which images appear.

Although we have thousands of words about pictures, Mitchell notes that we do not yet have a satisfactory theory of them. What we have is a variety of disciplines--semiotics, philosophical inquiries into representation, new departures in art history, studies in mass media--that attempt to converge on the problem of pictorial representation and visual culture. Identifying the problems inherent in the attempt to master visual representation with verbal discourse, Mitchell proposes instead to "picture theory." He looks at the way pictures function in theories about culture, consciousness, and representation, and at theory itself as a form of picturing. What precisely, he asks, are pictures (and theories about pictures) doing now, in the late twentieth century, when the power of the visual is said to be greater than ever before, and the "pictorial turn" supplants the "linguistic turn" in the study of culture?

Focusing on Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing, Oliver Stone's JFK, and television coverage of the Gulf War, he examines the capacity of visual images to awaken or stifle public debate, collective emotion, and political violence. An "applied iconology," this book by one of America's leading theorists of visual representation offers an immensely rich and suggestive account of the interplay between the visible and the readable across the culture, from literature to visual art to the mass media.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Mitchell (English and art, Univ. of Chicago), who is editor of Critical Inquiry, addresses a variety of concerns about the nexus of word and depiction. In cogent, jargon-free prose, Mitchell by turn takes up the reason behind a cartoon's apparent humor; the flow between narrative and memory, which can and has been ruptured by slavery; painterly theories; and much more. Incorporating theories propounded by Barthes, Wittgenstein, Magritte, and others, this volume is a veritable chocolate box of well-developed ideas for aesthetics students and scholars. It is also accessible to the lay reader, engaging for the researcher, and an emblematic resource for classroom discussion for the teacher of art history or philosophy. Recommended for most collections.-Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley P.L., Cal.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226532325
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/1995
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 462
  • Sales rank: 839,261
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

W. J. T. Mitchell is the Gaylord Donnelley Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of English Language and Literature, the Department of Art History, and the College at the University of Chicago. He is also coeditor of the journal Critical Inquiry.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Acknowledgments
Introduction 1
1 The Pictorial Turn 11
2 Metapictures 35
3 Beyond Comparison: Picture, Text, and Method 83
4 Visible Language: Blake's Art of Writing 111
5 Ekphrasis and the Other 151
6 Narrative, Memory, and Slavery 183
7 Ut Pictura Theoria: Abstract Painting and Language 213
8 Word, Image, and Object: Wall Labels for Robert Morris 241
9 The Photographic Essay: Four Case Studies 281
10 Illusion: Looking at Animals Looking 329
11 Realism, Irrealism, and Ideology: After Nelson Goodman 345
12 The Violence of Public Art: Do the Right Thing 371
13 From CNN to JFK 397
Conclusion: Some Pictures of Representation 417
Index 427
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