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The Eye's Mind: Literary Modernism and Visual Culture

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The Eye's Mind significantly alters our understanding of modernist literature by showing how changing visual discourses, techniques, and technologies affected the novels of that period. In readings that bring philosophies of vision into dialogue with photography and film as well as the methods of observation used by the social sciences, Karen Jacobs identifies distinctly modernist kinds of observers and visual relationships.This important reconception of modernism draws upon American, British, and French literary...
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Overview

The Eye's Mind significantly alters our understanding of modernist literature by showing how changing visual discourses, techniques, and technologies affected the novels of that period. In readings that bring philosophies of vision into dialogue with photography and film as well as the methods of observation used by the social sciences, Karen Jacobs identifies distinctly modernist kinds of observers and visual relationships.This important reconception of modernism draws upon American, British, and French literary and extra-literary materials from the period 1900-1955. These texts share a sense of crisis about vision's capacity for violence and its inability to deliver reliable knowledge. Jacobs looks closely at the ways in which historical understandings of race and gender inflected visual relations in the modernist novel. She shows how modernist writers, increasingly aware of the body behind the neutral lens of the observer, used diverse strategies to displace embodiment onto those "others" historically perceived as cultural bodies in order to reimagine for themselves or their characters a "purified" gaze.The Eye's Mind addresses works by such high modernists as Vladimir Nabokov, Virginia Woolf, and (more distantly) Ralph Ellison and Maurice Blanchot, as well as those by Henry James, Zora Neale Hurston, and Nathanael West which have been tentatively placed in the modernist canon although they forgo the full-blown experimental techniques often seen as synonymous with literary modernism. Jacobs reframes fundamental debates about modernist aesthetic practices by demonstrating how much those practices are indebted to the changing visual cultures of the twentieth century.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A highly nuanced picture of the racial and sexual frames of the modernists eye's mind."—Laura Doyle, University of Massachusetts, Amherst. American Literature, June 2002

"The Eye's Mind is a study of literary modernism that we have needed for a long while. Our post-structuralist obsession with visuality is everywhere apparent; but it has taken a scholar with Karen Jacobs's deep learning and range of knowledge to help us understand. . . She is able to do this, and to do this so well, because her study is genuinely interdisciplinary; its primary strength lies precisely in its synthetic and comparativist aims."—Dorothy J. Hale, University of California, Berkeley. Modernism/modernity, Vol. 8, No. 3, September 2001

"This is a lucid, well-researched and documented book that successfully contributes to the critical reimagining of the field of Modernism that has been taking place for the past 20+ years."—Jeanette McVicker, SUNY Freedonia. Woolf Studies Annual, Vol. 8, 2002

"Jacobs presents a truly fresh analysis of the impact of visual culture on modernist literature. . . A consistent, synthetic study that does not disintegrate into theoretical chaos; rather, the integration of all these perspectives into a clear, focused argument is impressive and refreshing."—Choice, Vol. 38, No. 11, July 2001

"The Eye's Mind offers a richly synthetic account of modernism's visual subjects. Indeed, Jacobs is among the first to situate literary modernism within a systematic analysis of visual culture, one that draws on the work of Martin Jay, Luce Irigaray, Susan Bordo, and Robyn Wiegman (among others). . . . Jacob's strength as a critic lies in her ability to offer fresh, complex readings of theoretical and literary texts and to juxtapose them in surprising and productive ways."—Laura Saltz, Colby College, MFS: Modern Fiction Studies, Fall 2002, vol. 48, no. 3

"A fine book on a topic of real importance, full of smart prose and ingenious arguments, The Eye's Mind is an impressive and theoretically sophisticated piece of work by an outstanding reader of the modernist novel."—James F. English, University of Pennsylvania

"Karen Jacobs' analysis is often breathtaking, while the wide range of texts she examines is crucial to a remapping of the literary terrain of modernity. The Eye's Mind is essential reading and a unique contribution to the study of visual culture."—Barbara Green, University of Notre Dame

Library Journal
In her first book, Jacobs (English, Univ. of Colorado, Boulder) expands on a new area of interpreting Modernist literature. She analyzes the act of viewing in Modernist texts. Using examples from Virginia Woolf, Maurice Blanchot, and others, she demonstrates how this movement is unique in its distrust of omniscient narrators. Jacobs examines contemporary innovations photography and film, anthropological and sociological observation techniques, and psychoanalysis and "skeptical philosophy" and illustrates how they affected the selected texts. Her selections from U.S., British, and French writing, both literary and nonliterary, are unconventional, and her argument for choosing them is not thoroughly expressed. The book is well researched, with extensive notes, but the writing is uneven. While the discussion of the selected texts is clear and thoughtful, the introduction is dense and indirect. Recommended only for academic libraries. Paolina Taglienti, Long Island Univ., Brooklyn, NY Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801486494
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 12/28/2000
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

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