What precisely, W. J. T. Mitchell asks, are pictures (and theories of 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? This book by one of America's leading theorists of visual representation offers a rich account of the interplay between the visible and the readable across culture, from literature to visual art to the mass media.
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.