We are, however, so confused both about suicide and about its use in battle that we should try out innumerable unexpected angles of approach. We need shaking up because suicide is encumbered with so many conceptual taboos that we do not know how to think it. The meanings of suicide itself are so protean across time and space that it is not so clear that there is one thing, suicide.
Ian Hacking is professor emeritus at both the Collège de France and the University of Toronto. His book Identities will appear in 2009. Previous books include The Emergence of Probability (2d ed. 2006), Historical Ontology (2002), The Social Construction of What? (1999), Mad Travelers (1998), Rewriting the Soul (1995), and Representing and Intervening (1983).
In Germany in the 1920s and early 1930s, the work of Erwin Panofsky was regarded as exceptionally obscure and theoretical—which, setting aside how this characterization was used as an anti-Semitic slur, is (as the brain ache of his translators attests) nonetheless true. Yet the incisiveness and complexity of his thinking in this period and his commanding vision of the whole field of art history are consistently rewarding, and we hope that this translation of one of his classic essays from the 1920s will prove stimulating to a new generation of English-speaking readers. Today art theory (nowadays often confused with methodology and even historiography) usually means watered-down versions of French-influenced poststructuralism, born in the great explosion of the ‘New Art History’ of the 1980s in reaction to the formalisms, positivisms, and indeed Panofsky-influenced iconologies of the 1960s and 1970s, especially in America and the United Kingdom. But it is refreshing to be reminded that in an earlier era much extremely acute thought was put into the relation of art history and art theory, into the precision with which their terminologies might be refined, into the problems of empiricism and the conceptual frames that inevitably control the generation of data in these fields, and into the problems of interpreting that data.
Katharina Lorenz is lecturer in classical studies at the University of Nottingham. She has been musing on how pictures want what they want for the last couple of years, stubbornly oblivious to the fact that dragons could be anything but those likable characters of her picture books. Without the cunning of a shrewd cotranslator, however, all this naïve bravery could only have made the dragon sneer. She is currently cross-examining different art-theoretical models for the interpretation of Greek and Roman visual narrative. Jaś Elsner is Humfry Payne Senior Research Fellow in classical art and archaeology at Corpus Christi College, Oxford and visiting professor of art history at the University of Chicago. For some years now he has been rambling in the backwoods of the historiography of art history, a most dangerous pastime since it brings one up against slumbering dragons one had not necessarily expected to be lying there. Getting locked in combat with them with the result that one attempts to translate their work is a hazard not at all expected and something certainly calculated to have one running away as fast as possible next time around. Only the protection of an able and much braver cotranslator has kept him on the straight and narrow. He has forthcoming essays on Riegl and the literature of classical archaeology and the ‘Golden Age’ of gothic in the moment immediately succeeding World War II.
When we examine works of art, we talk of artistic problems for which the work of art itself offers solutions. Problems of this kind (such as extent and centralization, column and wall, individual figure and global composition) always present themselves in the form of opposites, while works of art create a conciliation between such binary polarities. The specific quality of the equilibrium, in which the artistic character of any given work of art or group of works of art consists, is that it constitutes its own world, a world completely independent from empirical reality.8
8. Panofsky's word Ausgleich here seems to refer to a specific nexus that is generated within the interplay of the opposites. To bring this out we have opted for translating it with equilibrium; elsewhere we use other possible translations for Ausgleich: conciliation, where he seems to refer to the negotiation of the interplay between these concepts, and balance, where he concentrates on the state of this interplay.—Trans.
Erwin Panofsky, the renowned art historian, was professor at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton University, until his death in 1968. Among his many books are Meaning in the Visual Arts, Early Netherlandish Painting, and Renaissance and Renascences in Western Art.
Reenactments, the more or less authentic re-creation of prior events, provided a staple element of documentary representation until they were slain by the “vérité boys” of the 1960s (Robert Drew, Ricky Leacock, D. A. Pennebaker, David and Albert Maysles, Fred Wiseman, and others), who proclaimed everything except what took place in front of the camera without rehearsal or prompting to be a fabrication, inauthentic. Observational or direct cinema generated an honest record of what would have happened had the camera not been there or what does happen as a result of the camera recording people who know they are being filmed. Robert Flaherty's Nanook of the North might be admired for the evidence it provides of Flaherty's patience, exquisite eye, and apparent lack of preconceptions, but his entire salvage anthropology model of coaxing Allakariallak to do what “Nanook” would have done some thirty years earlier, without motorized vehicles, rifles, canned food, wood-frame homes, or filmmakers along for the ride, amounted to one colossal, unacknowledged reenactment and, therefore, fraud.
Bill Nichols, professor of cinema at San Francisco State University, is the author of several books addressing social aspects of cinema with a particular emphasis on documentary film. He is now completing an introductory film textbook, Engaging Cinema.
See also: Bill Nichols, Documentary Film and the Modernist Avant-Garde · Susan Rubin Suleiman, History, Memory, and Moral Judgment in Documentary Film: On Marcel Ophuls's "Hotel Terminus: The Life and Times of Klaus Barbie"
War, it seems, is at last mixed with something else; or, rather, what we learn by the pool is that war has been mixed with something else all along. Second, with the flood comes change: Candy learns at this last moment to accept the present and his difference from it; this war, he realizes, is not his war. To preserve his England he must let others fight its fight. I want at last to suggest that in tying the odd repetition of Candy's love to this last appearance of liquid in a film filled with it, Powell and Pressburger work to find a way out of a war total enough to sink everything. Instead of once again embodying a violence the target of which is difference itself, this final pool of water holds the hope that things, even repetition, might one day be different.
Kent Puckett is an associate professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of Bad Form: Social Mistakes and the Nineteenth-Century Novel (forthcoming).
Reading Erich Auerbach's lead essay in Mimesis, one might well be struck by the willful perversity of that piece. Its comparison between Greek culture (focused by Homer) and the Bible (focused by the Old Testament) seems rather pointed and polemical, though the reasons for this boldness are anything but self-evident. Look closer and you will notice that the Jews in that chapter are a little too Jewish, while the Greeks are a little too, well, … German. How could this be anything but a provocation? Inquire further into the immediate historical and political background of “Odysseus' Scar,” and it will quickly emerge that Auerbach's apparent perversity has a good claim to being real, as does his seeming urge to provocation, though oddly neither the Jewishness of the Old Testament as he presents it there nor the politics of his position have attracted anything near the attention they deserve.
James I. Porter teaches classics and comparative literature at the University of California, Irvine. He is the author of Nietzsche and the Philology of the Future (2000), The Invention of Dionysus: An Essay on “The Birth of Tragedy” (2000), and a forthcoming two-volume study on ancient Greek aesthetics. His current projects include Homer: The Very Idea and Time, History, and Literature: Selected Essays of Erich Auerbach (forthcoming)
New media, like the computer technology on which it relies, races simultaneously towards the future and the past, towards what we might call the bleeding edge of obsolescence. Indeed, rather than asking, What is new media? we might want to ask what seem to be the more important questions: what was new media? and what will it be? To some extent the phenomenon stems from the modifier new: to call something new is to ensure that it will one day be old. The slipperiness of new media—the difficulty of engaging it in the present—is also linked to the speed of its dissemination. Neither the aging nor the speed of the digital, however, explains how or why it has become the new or why the yesterday and tomorrow of new media are often the same thing. Consider concepts such as social networking (MUDS to Second Life), or hot YouTube videos that are already old and old email messages forever circulated and rediscovered as new. This constant repetition, tied to an inhumanly precise and unrelenting clock, points to a factor more important than speed—a nonsimultaneousness of the new, which I argue sustains new media as such.
Wendy Hui Kyong Chun is associate professor of modern culture and media at Brown University. She is author of Control and Freedom: Power and Paranoia in the Age of Fiber Optics (2006) and coeditor of New Media, Old Media: A History and Theory Reader (2006). She is currently finishing a monograph entitled Programmed Visions (forthcoming) and coediting a special issue of Camera Obscura on race as technology (forthcoming).
Emancipation does not hinge on the power of words as such. It hinges on the power of the relation with the book. The materiality of the book is opposed to the position of the master; the book is in your hands, and nobody is there to tell you how you have to understand words. There is the possibility of a lot of translations being made by the reader so that, in a certain way, it is the reader who transforms the book. And even if you put the words in a certain order to convey a certain meaning, and even if words are overdetermined, it's up to the reader to change the rules of the game.
Jacques Rancière is professor of aesthetics at the University of Paris-VIII, St. Denis. His most recent book is The Future of the Image.