Things that Talk: Object Lessons from Art and Science

Overview

Imagine a world without things. There would be nothing to describe,nothing to explain, remark, interpret, or complain about. Without things, we would stop speaking; we would become as mute as things are alleged to be. In nine original essays, internationally renowned historians of art and of science seek to understand how objects become charged with significance without losing their gritty materiality. True to the particularity of things, each of the essays singles out one object for close attention: a Bosch ...

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Overview

Imagine a world without things. There would be nothing to describe,nothing to explain, remark, interpret, or complain about. Without things, we would stop speaking; we would become as mute as things are alleged to be. In nine original essays, internationally renowned historians of art and of science seek to understand how objects become charged with significance without losing their gritty materiality. True to the particularity of things, each of the essays singles out one object for close attention: a Bosch drawing, the freestanding column, a Prussian island, soap bubbles, early photographs, glass flowers, Rorschach blots, newspaper clippings, paintings by Jackson Pollock. Each is revealed to be a node around which meanings accrete thickly. But not just any meanings: what these things are made of and how they are made shape what they can mean. Neither the pure texts of semiotics nor the brute objects of positivism, these things are saturated with cultural significance. Things become talkative when they fuse matter and meaning; they lapse into speechlessness when their matter and meanings no longer mesh. Each of the nine objects examined in this book had its historical moment, when the match of this thing to that thought seemed irresistible. At these junctures, certain things become objects of fascination, association, and endless consideration; they begin to talk.

Things that talk fleetingly realize the dream of a perfect language, in which words and world merge.Essays Lorraine Daston, Peter Galison, Anke te Heesen, Caroline A.

Jones, Joseph Leo Koerner, Antoine Picon, Simon Schaffer, Joel Snyder, and M. Norton and Elaine M. Wise. Lorraine Daston is Director at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, Germany. She is the coauthor of Wonders and the Order of Nature, 1150-1750 (Zone Books).

Zone Books

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This collection is a feast for students of art, modern Western history,and philosophy. Recommended for academic and university libraries..." Francisca Goldsmith Library Journal

Zone Books

Library Journal
Nine authors from several U.S. and European universities, including editor Daston (coauthor, Wonders and the Order of Nature), here work with the concept of approaching objects with hermeneutical awareness. Writing about such disparate but equally rich and intriguing subjects as Harvard's glass flower collection, the newspaper-clipping rage of the early 20th century, the presence and critical reception of the freestanding column in post-Gothic church architecture, and the ever-changing uses made of the landscape of an island in the Lowlands' Havel River, the authors offer inspiring and accessible ideas about humanity's ability to communicate through a vast array of productions other than speech and sign. How these productions are open to interpretation that differs with successive generations is also addressed by essayists Antoine Picon, Joel Snyder, Caroline A. Jones, and others, many of whom include artwork and graphics to illustrate salient points. This collection is a feast for students of art, modern Western history, and philosophy. Recommended for academic and university libraries that serve those audiences.-Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley P.L., CA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781890951443
  • Publisher: Zone Books
  • Publication date: 11/30/2007
  • Pages: 447
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.25 (d)

Meet the Author

Lorraine Daston is Director at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, Germany. She is the coauthor of Wonders and the Order of Nature,1150-1750 and the editor of Things That Talk: Object Lessons from Art and Science (both Zone Books).

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Table of Contents

Preface : things that talk 7
Introduction : speechless 9
Ch. I Bosch's equipment 27
Ch. II The freestanding column in eighteenth-century religious architecture 67
Ch. III Staging an empire 101
Ch. IV A science whose business is bursting : soap bubbles as commodities in classical physics 147
Ch. V Res Ipsa Loquitur 195
Ch. VI The glass flowers 223
Ch. VII Image of self 257
Ch. VIII News, paper, scissors : clippings in the sciences and arts around 1920 297
Ch. IX Talking pictures : Clement Greenberg's Pollock 329
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