Images at Work: A Special Issue, Representations 133

NOW AVAILABLE

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Guest Editors

Ittai Weinryb, Assistant Professor of Medieval Art and Material Culture,

Bard Graduate Center

Hannah Baader, Senior Research Scholar, Kunsthistorisches Institut, Florence

Gerhard Wolf, Director of the Kunsthistorisches Institut, Florence

According to legend, the poet Virgil made a fly out of bronze and perched it above the gates of Naples. The fly’s sole purpose was to prevent other flies from entering the city. This Representations special issue explores the intention, function, and reception of images like Virgil’s fly: images made to influence the natural world. The essays collected here examine the theories behind the construction of these operative images, question the way the production of apotropaic images related to the production of art, and consider how such working images helped to fashion a world.

The aim of the volume is to find the connection between historical moments and theories relating to efficacy as ascribed to objects or things. Each essay included does this a little differently: from Finbarr B. Flood’s thinking about the anthropomorphic eye and hand patterns in medieval Iran to Persis Berlekamp’s illumination of the protective dragons of 13th-century Syria, and from Tanja Klemm’s explication of Renaissance medical iconography to Christopher Wood’s theorizing on the artwork’s paradoxical lack in the face of anthropomorphism, and finally, in the last essay, to Gerhard Wolf’s witty engagement with thing theory and the material turn. Together these essays analyze the material artifact in light of historical circumstance, and the historical circumstance is in turn illuminated by the artifact.

Contributions to the volume both reflect and respond to recent shifts among art historians and anthropologists in the historical understanding of the material object, building on and furthering debates begun by David Freedberg, Jane Bennett, Horst Bredekamp, Lorraine Daston, Alfred Gell, Bruno Latour, and others. Notable contributors include guest editor Gerhard Wolf, Director of the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence, and Finbarr B. Flood, Professor of the Humanities at New York University and author of the prize-winning Objects of Translation: Material Culture and Medieval “Hindu-Muslim” Encounter.

Featured Articles

Images at Work: On Efficacy and Historical Interpretation*
HANNAH BAADER AND ITTAI WEINRYB

*For a limited time only, this article is available for free.

Animal, Vegetal, and Mineral: Ambiguity and Efficacy in the Nishapur Wall Paintings
FINBARR B. FLOOD

Symmetry, Sympathy, and Sensation: Talismanic Efficacy and Slippery Iconographies in Early Thirteenth-Century Iraq, Syria, and Anatolia
PERSIS BERLEKAMP

Life from Within: Physiology and Talismanic Efficacy in Marsilio Ficino’s De vita (1498)
TANJA KLEMM

Image and Thing, A Modern Romance
CHRISTOPHER S. WOOD

Image, Object, Art: Talking to a Chinese Jar on Two Human Feet
GERHARD WOLF

Ross Posnock presents “Fighting Words: Challenging ‘Surface’ and ‘Reading’ via William James, Susan Sontag, and J. D. Salinger”

Idea 1Ross Posnock, Anna Garbedian Professor of the Humanities at Columbia University, will present a talk at UC Berkeley entitled “Fighting Words: Challenging ‘Surface’ and ‘Reading’ via William James, Susan Sontag, and J. D. Salinger.” The event will take place on Thursday, February 25, from 5 to 7pm in 300 Wheeler Hall.

Posnock’s essay, “’Don’t think, but look!’: W. G. Sebald, Wittgenstein, and Cosmopolitan Poverty,” can be found in Representations 112. Part of a special issue on “The Way We Read Now,” Stephen Best and Sharon Marcus’s theory of surface reading can be found in “Surface Reading: An Introduction” (Representations 108).

Nicholas Mathew on Messiaen’s Des Canyons aux Etoiles

Dept-Photo-150x226Nicholas Mathew, Associate Professor of Music at UC Berkeley, will discuss Olivier Messiaen’s Des canyons aux etoiles (1974) with Shannon Jackson, Cyrus and Michelle Hadidi Chair in the Humanities at UC Berkeley. The event, part of the Big Ideas series featured at the newly re-opened BAMPFA, will take place at noon on February 3.

 

Mathew is the author, with Representations co-chair Mary Ann Smart, of “Elephants in the Room: The Future of Quirk Historicism,” an introduction to the recent Representations forum on Quirk Historicism (132).

 

Books of 2015: Editorial Board Round-Up

David Bates, ed. (with Nima Bassiri), Plasticity and Pathology: On the Formation of the Neural Subject, Fordham University Press and the Townsend Center for the Humanities

9780823266135_23This collection of essays brings together a diverse range of scholars to investigate how the “neural subject” of the twenty-first century came to be. Taking approaches both historical and theoretical, they probe the possibilities and limits of neuroscientific understandings of human experience. Topics include landmark studies in the history of neuroscience, the relationship between neural and technological “pathologies,” and analyses of contemporary concepts of plasticity and pathology in cognitive neuroscience. Central to the volume is a critical examination of the relationship between pathology and plasticity. Because pathology is often the occasion for neural reorganization and adaptation, it exists not in opposition to the brain’s “normal” operation but instead as something intimately connected to our ways of being and understanding.

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Dan Blanton, Epic Negation: The Dialectical Poetics of Late Modernism, Oxford University Press

Jahan Ramazani (University of Virginia): “Intricately studying allusion and intergeneric relations in late modernism, C. D. Blanton’s capacious and deeply thoughtful Epic Negation traces how extrinsic voices, historical forces, and forms snake their way into even seemingly closed poems. With its fusion of sinuous close readings and lively theoretical analysis, Blanton’s book makes a serious contribution to twentieth-century poetry studies.”

 

41rpXeBKT0L._SX384_BO1,204,203,200_Beate Fricke (English trans. of 2007 book), Fallen Idols, Risen Saints: Sainte Foy of Conques and the Revival of Monumental Sculpture in Medieval Art, Brepols Publishers

This book investigates the origins and transformations of medieval image culture and its reflections in theology, hagiography, historiography and art. It deals with a remarkable phenomenon: the fact that, after a period of 500 years of absence, the tenth century sees a revival of monumental sculpture in the Latin West. . . . Drawing on the historical investigation of specific objects and texts between the ninth and the eleventh century, the book outlines an occidental history of image culture, visuality and fiction, claiming that only images possess modes of visualizing what in the discourse of medieval theology can never be addressed and revealed.
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Beate Fricke, ed. (with  Urte Krass), The Public in the Picture: Involving the Beholder in Antique, Islamic, Byzantine, Western Medieval and Renaissance Art, University of Chicago Press

The act of including bystanders within the scene of an artwork has marked an important shift in the ways artists addressed the beholder, as well as a significant transformation of the relationship between images and their viewership. In such works, the “public” in the picture could be seen as a mediating between different times, people, and contents.

 

Steve Justice, Adam Usk’s Secret, University of Pennsylvania Press

Andrew Galloway (Cornell University): “In prose that is 15368extraordinarily alive both to its subject and to its own suspenseful disclosures, Steven Justice teaches us to read a Latin chronicle as a piece of written craft, and few have sustained that attention this far or this finely. More importantly, Justice assesses and advances major principles of narrative interpretation, concerning how narratives relate to contexts, how rhetorical traditions foster or undermine particular visions of history, and how the discipline of literary analysis maintains a delicate balance between rigorous adherence to its established tenets and wider connections to other questions and explanations—matters that must surely energize discussion among humanities scholars of all periods.”

 

Tom Laqueur, The Work of the Dead: A Cultural History of Mortal Remains, Princeton University Press

k10535The Greek philosopher Diogenes said that when he died his body should be tossed over the city walls for beasts to scavenge. Why should he or anyone else care what became of his corpse? In The Work of the Dead, acclaimed cultural historian Thomas Laqueur examines why humanity has universally rejected Diogenes’s argument. No culture has been indifferent to mortal remains. Even in our supposedly disenchanted scientific age, the dead body still matters—for individuals, communities, and nations. A remarkably ambitious history, The Work of the Dead offers a compelling and richly detailed account of how and why the living have cared for the dead, from antiquity to the twentieth century.

 

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Saba Mahmood, Religious Difference in a Secular Age: A Minority Report, Princeton University Press

The plight of religious minorities in the Middle East is often attributed to the failure of secularism to take root in the region. Religious Difference in a Secular Age challenges this assessment by examining four cornerstones of secularism—political and civil equality, minority rights, religious freedom, and the legal separation of private and public domains.

 

 

9780226248509Saba Mahmood, ed. (with Winnifred Fallers Sullivan, Elizabeth Shakman Hurd, and Peter G. Danchin), Politics of Religious Freedom, U of Chicago Press

Talal Asad (CUNY Graduate Center): “The principle of religious freedom, central to the liberal politics of the modern world, is increasingly becoming an object of critical reflection. This collection, edited by four distinguished scholars, is a welcome contribution to this important topic. I have learnt something from each of these thoughtful essays. Everyone interested in recent debates on secularism will benefit from reading them.”

David Kurnick presents “The Erotics of Large Numbers: Realism’s Demographic Passions”

williams-and-kurnickDavid Kurnick, Associate Professor of English at Rutgers University, will present a talk at UC Berkeley entitled “The Erotics of Large Numbers: Realism’s Demographic Passions.“ The event will take place on Friday, January 22nd at 3:00pm in 300 Wheeler Hall.

 

Kurnick is the author of “Numberiness,” a short essay responding to Eric Bulson’s article “Ulysses by Numbers” (Representations 127 [Summer 2014]), published on the Representations blog last year.

Representations at MLA

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The 2016 Modern Language Association convention will take place on January 7-10, in Austin, Texas. Presentations by Representations editorial board members include Michael Lucey on “Proust and Linguistic Fieldwork” and Niklaus Largier on “Auerbach’s Understanding of the Reader and the Literary Public.”

 

Lucey’s panel, “Literary Criticism Meets Linguistic Anthropology: Social Indexicality, Entextualization, Language in Use,” takes place from 8:30-9:45am on Saturday, January 9 in Room 406 of the JW Marriott Hotel. Largier will present as part of a panel on “Auerbach and His Publics,” which will take place from noon to 1:15pm that afternoon in Room 303 of the hotel.

 

In addition, the MLA is convening a panel discussion of New World Encounters, the celebrated 1993 collection of Representations essays edited by Stephen Greenblatt,a founder and frequent contributor to the journal. The panel, entitled “Reexamining New World Encounters: Where Do We Go from Here?,” will take place on Saturday, January 9, from 3:30–4:45 p.m. in Room 18A of the Austin Convention Center.

Tom Laqueur interviewed on Fresh Air

j10535If you missed it today, you can still listen to Terry Gross’s interview of Tom Laqueur at Fresh Air at NPR.org. Gross talks with Laqueur, a member of Representations‘ editorial board since the journal’s founding in 1983, about his new book The Work of the Dead: A Cultural History of Mortal Remains (Princeton, 2015).

Thomas Laqueur is a professor of history at the University of California, Berkeley. His other books include Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud and Solitary Sex: A Cultural History of Masturbation.

 

Representations’s Saba Mahmood on the Paris attacks

Saba Mahmood, Professor of Anthropology and member of the Representations Editorial Board, will participate in a panel on the attacks that occurred in Paris on November 13. The event, part of the “Expert Lectures” series sponsored by the Institute for International Studies, will take place on Wednesday, December 2 from 5-7 p.m. in the Booth Auditorium at the UC Berkeley School of Law.

The panel, moderated by Tyler Stovall (Distinguished Professor of History and Dean of Humanities at UC Santa Cruz), will also include Hatem Bazian (Ethnic Studies, UC Berkeley), Judith Butler (Comparative Literature, UC Berkeley), Bartolomeo Conti (École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales), Jean-Pierre Filiu (Sciences Po, Paris), Christopher Kutz (UC Berkeley School of Law), and Soraya Tlatli (French Department, UC Berkeley).

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Breaking News! Yurchak Wins Russia’s Prosvetitel Prize

Congratulations to Representations editorial board member Alexei Yurchak, whose Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More: The Last Soviet Generation («Это было навсегда, пока не кончилось») has been awarded Russia’s prestigious 2015 Prosvetitel Prize. The English version of the book was published in 2006 and shortly thereafter won the Wayne Vucinic Book Award for best book of the year from the American Society for Eastern European, Eurasian, and Slavic Studies. The expanded version, rewritten by Yurchak in Russian and published last year, was one of four books nominated for the Prosvetitel Prize in the humanities.

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Yurchak accepts the Prosvetitel Prize in Moscow.

Yurchak’s much talked about “Bodies of Lenin: The Hidden Science of Communist Sovereignty” appeared earlier this year in Representations 129.

Alexei Yurchak’s “Everything Was Forever …” Nominated for Russia’s Prosvetitel Prize

Jurchak_coverCongratulations to Representations editorial board member Alexei Yurchak, whose Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More: The Last Soviet Generation («Это было навсегда, пока не кончилось») has been short-listed for Russia’s prestigious 2015 Prosvetitel Prize. Published in Russian last year, the book was first published in English in 2006, and shortly thereafter won the Wayne Vucinic Book Award for best book of the year from the American Society for Eastern European, Eurasian, and Slavic Studies.

Yurchak’s much talked about “Bodies of Lenin: The Hidden Science of Communist Sovereignty” appeared earlier this year in Representations 129.