On the Problem of Describing and Interpreting Works of the Visual Arts
In the eleventh of his Antiquarian Letters, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing discusses a phrase from Lucian's description of the painting by Zeuxis called A Family of Centaurs: ‘at the top of the painting a centaur is leaning down as if from an observation point, smiling’ (ano de tes eikonos hoion apo tinos skopes Hippokentauros tis …). ‘This as if from an observation point, Lessing notes, obviously implies that Lucian himself was uncertain whether this figure was positioned further back, or was at the same time on higher ground. We need to recognize the logic of ancient bas-reliefs where figures further to the back look over those at the front, not because they are actually positioned above them but because they are meant to appear as if standing behind.'1
1. The passage is in George Lessing, Briefe, antiquarischen Inhalts (Berlin, 1778), p. 81. Panofsky's discussion does not note that the original text of Lucian (Zeuxis or Antiochus 3) makes clear that what is described is a copy of the original painting (already said by Lucian to be lost). This means that some of the issues of misunderstanding situated by Lessing and Panofsky in Lucian's court may in principle be attributable to the copyist. This makes no difference to the conceptual thrust of Panofsky's case.—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.
See also: Jaś Elsner and Katharina Lorenz, The Genesis of Iconology · Erwin Panofsky, On the Relationship of Art History and Art Theory · Joan Hart, Erwin Panofsky and Karl Mannheim
[Panofsky's] essay is the first and arguably the fundamental statement of what would later come to be called the theory of iconology. It advocates the three levels of meaning in a work of art and the three levels of interpretation needed to elicit them which would be the basis of Panofsky's prescriptions for the discipline of art history in his American period. Although couched very differently from the two versions of his presentation of iconology in 1939 and 1955, much more propositional and arguably hard-hitting in both form and content, the 1932 essay makes all the key intellectual points and concludes with a version of the diagram which would come to epitomise the later iconology essays.5 It is thus the conceptual foundation of Panofsky's mature work in the United States and the English language—not only the zenith of his German enterprise but the basis of his American career. We examine here the place of Panofsky's Logos essay in his corpus—and hence its specific critical contribution for the discipline of art history—by taking these two historical trajectories in turn.
5. See Panofsky, Meaning in the Visual Arts: Papers in and on Art History (Chicago, 1955), pp. 26–41 and SI, pp. 3–17.
Jaś Elsner is Humfry Payne Senior Research Fellow at Corpus Christi College Oxford and visiting professor of art history at the University of Chicago. He works on all aspects of Roman and early Christian art, including their historiographic receptions, as well as on questions of image and description. Katharina Lorenz is associate professor in classical studies at the University of Nottingham. Her research is concerned with storytelling, spatial appropriation, and formal development in Greek and Roman art.
See also: Erwin Panofsky, Describing and Interpreting Works of the Visual Arts · Joan Hart, Erwin Panofsky and Karl Mannheim · Jonathan Bordo, Picture and Witness at the Site of the Wilderness
How should one live? This central philosophical question can be separated into at least two parts. The first concerns the conduct and attitudes morality requires of each of us. The second is about the essential elements of a worthwhile life; it's about what it means to flourish, which includes meeting certain moral demands but is not exhausted by this. Answering this two-pronged question traditionally falls within the subdiscipline of ethics, broadly construed. Philosophers have also sought to explain what makes a society just or good, to specify the values and principles by which we are to evaluate institutional arrangements and political regimes. This is the traditional domain of political philosophy. This essay addresses a question that arises where ethics and political philosophy meet.
Tommie Shelby is professor of African and African American Studies and professor of philosophy at Harvard University. He is the author of We Who Are Dark: The Philosophical Foundations of Black Solidarity (2005). He is currently writing a book on race and urban poverty, tentatively entitled Justice and the Dark Ghetto. He is also coeditor of Transition.
See also: Moody E. Prior, Mrs. Stowe's Uncle Tom · Daniel Hack, The African Americanization of Bleak House · Elizabeth Abel, Jim Crow's Racial Symbolic
According to Wai Chee Dimock, scholars of American literature should study it in a bigger historical context than the one beginning in 1776 or even 1620, freeing themselves in this way from the narrow-minded nationalism that has so often drawn a border around their research. To view American literature in light of the longer durée of ancient civilizations is to see Henry David Thoreau reading the Bhagavad Gita, Ralph Waldo Emerson the Persian poet Hāfez, and rediscover in these and other extensive sympathies the kinship of American literature with world literature. Dramatically expanding the tracts of space-time across which literary scholars might draw valid links between author and author, text and text, and among author, text, and the wide world beyond, the perspective of deep time holds the additional promise, for Dimock, of reinvigorating “our very sense of the connectedness among human beings” and of dissuading us, thereby, from the wisdom of war.1 At the very least we might hope that American soldiers wouldn't look idly on, as they did on 14 April 2003, as the cultural treasures of the Iraqi National Library—which are the treasures of all humankind—were looted and burned.
1. Wai Chee Dimock, Through Other Continents: American Literature across Deep Time (Princeton, N.J., 2006), p. 5; hereafter abbreviated T.
Mark McGurl is professor of English at Stanford University. He is the author most recently of The Program Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing.
See also: Mark McGurl, Pluralisms of Postwar American Fiction · Wai Chee Dimock, Weak Theory · Jonathan Kramnick, Against Literary Darwinism
Many patients were surprised or confused by their first visit to Dr. Freud's office. Lying on the famous couch, they found themselves surrounded by a plethora of objects and images they would never have associated with the business of the psychoanalytic cure. Statuettes, masks, and portraits from ancient times were arranged in showcases, on the shelves and on desks within a room whose walls were covered with depictions of mythological scenes and portraits of Freud's mentors (fig. 1). The patient's first impressions of this peculiar display, which has been faithfully preserved by Anna Freud in their last London home at Maresfield Gardens, were frequently strong ones. One of the most articulate of Freud's patients, Hilda Doolittle, herself a lover of antiquities, did not hesitate to tell him how “overwhelmed and upset” she was to find him “surrounded by these treasures, in a museum, a temple.” During her own analysis, a variety of these “toys,” as she called them, seemed to act as replicas or “ghosts” of the figures appearing in her dreams or memories: “We are all haunted houses.”1
1. H. D. [Hilda Doolittle], “Advent,” Tribute to Freud (Boston, 1974), pp. 119, 146.
Andreas Mayer has taught at the University of Cambridge, the University of Chicago, and the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris. His publications include Wissenschaft vom Gehen (forthcoming), Mikroskopie der Psyche: Die Anfänge der Psychoanalyse im Hypnose-Labor (2002), and (cowritten with Lydia Marinelli) Dreaming by the Book: Freud's “The Interpretation of Dreams” and the History of the Psychoanalytic Movement (2003).
See also: Jean Starobinski, Acheronta Movebo · Arnold I. Davidson, How to Do the History of Psychoanalysis · Nina Auerbach, The Romance of the Victorian Freud
Modernity's Frail Climate: A Climate History of Environmental Reflexivity
We believe that a historical understanding of past environmental discourses is essential for contemporary social and green theory because the dominant narratives used to reflect upon the contemporary environmental crisis are too simple. There is an assumption shared by most postmodern thinkers today that for about two generations we have been experiencing a complete transformation of our relationship with the environment. After three centuries of frenetic modernism, we entered, at last, an enlightened era of environmental awareness. Landmark writers of social theory have coined new labels to name our epoch and express its radical novelty: risk society (as opposed to industrial society), reflexive modernization, second modernization, or high modernity, while philosophers have reflected on the recent transformation of the nature of human action.1
1. See Ulrich Beck, Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity, trans. Mark Ritter (London, 1992); Anthony Giddens, Modernity and Self Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age (Stanford, Calif., 1991); Niklas Luhmann, Risk: A Sociological Theory, trans. Rhodes Barrett (New York, 1993); and Hans Jonas, The Imperative of Responsibility: In Search of an Ethics for the Technological Age, trans. Jonas and David Herr (Chicago, 1984).
Jean-Baptiste Fressoz is a historian of science, technology, and the environment at Imperial College, London. He recently published L'Apocalypse joyeuse : Une Histoire du risque technologique (2012). He is currently writing a political history of climate since the eighteenth century with Fabien Locher. Fabien Locher is a historian at the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) and the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS). He has published Le Savant et la tempête: Étudier l'atmosphère et prévoir le temps au XIXe siècle (2008).
See also: Dipesh Chakrabarty, The Climate of History · Dale Jamieson, The Philosophers' Symposium on Climate Change · Aamir R. Mufti, Global Comparativism
If You're So Smart, Why Are You under Surveillance? Universities, Neoliberalism, and New Public Management
Although universities have undergone changes since the dawn of their existence, the speed of change started to accelerate remarkably in the 1960s. Spectacular growth in the number of students and faculty was immediately followed by administrative reforms aimed at managing this growth and managing the demands of students for democratic reform and societal relevance. Since the 1980s, however, an entirely different wind has been blowing along the academic corridors. The fiscal crisis of the welfare states and the neoliberal course of the Reagan and Thatcher governments made the battle against budget deficits and against government spending into a political priority. Education, together with social security and health care, were targeted directly. As the eighties went on, the neoliberal agenda became more radical—smaller state and bigger market—attacking the public sector itself through efforts to systematically reduce public expenditure by privatizing public services and introducing market incentives. At the same time the societal relevance of the universities demanded by critical students was turned on its head to become economic relevance to business and industry in the knowledge society.
Chris Lorenz is professor in the theory and history. (historiography at VU University Amsterdam. He is the author of Przekraczanie Granic: Esejez filozofii historii i teorii historiografii (2009) and Nationalizing the Past: Historians as Nation Builders in Modern Europe (2010) and editor of If You're So Smart Why Aren't You Rich? Universiteit, Markt, and Management (2008) and (with Stefan Berger) The Contested Nation: Ethnicity, Class, Religion, and Gender in National Histories (2008).
See also: Stanley Fish, Take This Job and Do It: Administering the University without an Idea · Dominick LaCapra, The University in Ruins? · Christopher Newfield, Race, the Right, and Managerial Democracy in the Humanities
In the summer of 1991, the first issue of the Israeli journal Teoria Ubikoret (Theory and Criticism) published an essay of mine on Anton Shammas, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, who wrote the Hebrew novel Arabeskot (Arabesques).1 In this essay I traced Shammas's subversion of the Jewish ethnocentrism of the Hebrew literary canon.2 Shammas's novel reveals how the Hebrew canon in Israel, in the guise of the apparently neutral term Hebrew Literature, which only apparently bases itself on the Hebrew language as the common literary language of Jews and Arabs, has in fact imposed an exclusionary policy. That is, in order to enter its realm, those who write in Hebrew must be Jewish. Shammas, I argued, sought to de-Judaize the Hebrew language and turn it into a language shared by all Israelis, Jews and Arabs alike.
Now, twenty years later, Teoria Ubikoret has published a different essay of mine, this time on Tuvya haholev (Tuvya the Dairyman), Dan Miron's Hebrew translation of the great Yiddish writer Shalom Aleichem's novel Tevye der Milhiker. I claim that while Miron's Hebrew indeed Hebraicizes Aleichem's Yiddish, it also moves in the opposite direction; it Yiddishizes Hebrew, giving Yiddish a prominent presence in the Hebrew translation and thus decentering Israeli subjectivity and undermining the cohesive force of Hebrew.3
1. See Anton Shammas, Arabeskot (Tel Aviv, 1986); trans.Vivien Eden under the title Arabesques(Berkeley, 2001).
2. See Hannan Hever, “Ivrit be-eto shel aravi,” Teoria Ubikoret 1 (Summer 1991): 23–38, “Hebrew in an Israeli Arab Hand: Six Miniatures on Anton Shammas's Arabesques,” The Nature and Context of Minority Discourse, ed. Abdul R. JanMohamed and David Lloyd (Oxford, 1990), pp. 264–93, andProducing the Modern Hebrew Canon: Nation Building and Minority Discourse (New York, 2002), pp. 175–204.
3. See Hever, “Tuvia haholev beivrit,” review of Tuvya Haholev by Shalom Aleichem, trans. Dan Miron,Teoria Ubikoret 36 (Spring 2010): 227–30.
Hannan Hever is the chair of the School of Literatures at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and a senior fellow at the Jerusalem Van Leer Institute. He has written many books about modern Hebrew literature, including Suddenly the Sight of War: Nationalism and Violence in the Hebrew Poetry of the 1940s (forthcoming), Producing Modern Hebrew Canon: Minority Discourse in Modern Hebrew Fiction (2002), The Homeland of Death Is Beautiful: Aesthetics and Politics in the Poetry of Uri Zvi Greenberg (2004), Reading Poetry, Reviews, Essays, and Articles about Hebrew Poetry (2007), and From the Beginning, Three Essays on Nativist Hebrew Poetry (2008).
See also: Jacqueline Rose, The Question of Zionism · Daniel Boyarin and Jonathan Boyarin on Diaspora · Edward W. Said, An Ideology of Difference
Points of Contention: Rethinking the Past, Present, and Future of Punctuation
The rule books, though they claimed to heed only the call of logic, were nonetheless bound by their historical context: punctuation guidelines have been heavily indebted to intellectual, cultural, and aesthetic trends. No matter what analytical authority rule books claimed, their codifications had at least as much to do with their historical context as with syntax. When punctuation is properly contextualized, it can yield insight into problems that transcend disciplinary boundaries: it asks us to consider how we communicate within the disciplines and beyond them and how disciplines create and maintain interpretive norms. It is this account of punctuation that I begin to develop here.
I want to track the much-maligned semicolon and its fellow punctuation marks as rules for their usage were established and evolved. I consider the consequences of the nineteenth-century explosion of systems of grammar rules by way of the story of a semicolon in a statute that deprived Bostonians of late-night liquor from 1900–1906. The “Semicolon Law,” as it came to be known, exemplifies problems of interpretation still live in legal theory. I contrast the demands of legal formalism with the expectations of close reading in the humanities and social sciences. I conclude by attending to the inheritance left to us by nineteenth-century grammarians' impassioned attempts to bring order to English: The Chicago Manual of Style. I raise some critical questions about our attitudes towards rules, and consider how those attitudes influence our approach to punctuation and our passions about semicolons.
Cecelia Watson is a postdoctoral fellow at the European College of Liberal Arts and a visiting postdoctoral fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science. She finished her PhD in the Committee on the Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science at the University of Chicago in 2011, and she is currently working on a book on William James's scientific and philosophical applications of epistemic principles drawn from the visual arts.
See also: Marjorie Garber, " " (Quotation Marks) · Henry Schwarz, Laissez-Faire Linguistics · E. D. Hirsch, Jr., Stylistics and Synonymity