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Confronting Images


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ContentsList of IllustrationsTranslator's PrefaceQuestion PosedWhen we pose our gaze to an art image (1) Question posed to a tone of certainty (2) Question posed to a Kantian tone, to some magic words, and to the status of a knowledge (5) The very old requirement of figurability (7)1. The History of Art Within the Limits of Its Simple PracticeLooking intently at a patch/whack of white wall: the visible, the legible, the visual, the virtualThe requirement of the visual, or how incarnation "opens" imitationWhere the discipline is wary of theory as of not-knowledge. The illusion of specificity, the illusion of exactitude, and the "historian's blow"Where the past screens the past. The indispensable find and the unthinkable loss. Where history and art come to impede the history of artFirst platitude: art is over . . . since the existence of the history of art. Metaphysical trap and positivist trapSecond platitude: everything is visible . . . since art is dead2. Art as Rebirth and the Immortality of the Ideal ManWhere art was invented as renascent from its ashes, and where the history of art invented itself along with itThe four legitimations of Vasari's Lives: obedience to the prince, the social body of art, the appeal to origins, and the appeal to endsWhere Vasari saves artists from oblivion and "renames/renowns" them in eterna fama.The history of art as second religion, devoted to the immortality of ideal menMetaphysical ends and courtly ends. Where the crack is closed in the ideal and realism: a magic writing-pad operationThe first three magic words: rinascita, imitazione, idea (89). The fourth magic word: disegno. Where art legitimates itself as unified object, noble practice, and intellectual knowledge. The metaphysics of Federico Zuccari. Where the history of art creates art in its own image3. The History of Art Within the Limits of Its Simple ReasonThe ends that Vasari bequeathed to us. Simple reason, or how discourse invents its objectMetamorphoses of the Vasarian thesis, emergences from the moment of antithesis: the Kantian tone adopted by the history of artWhere Erwin Panofsky develops the moment of antithesis and critique. How the visible takes on meaning. Interpretive violenceFrom antithesis to synthesis. Kantian ends, metaphysical ends. Synthesis as magical operationFirst magic word: humanism. Where object of knowledge becomes form of knowledge.Vasari as Kantian and Kant as humanist. Powers of consciousness and return to the ideal manSecond magic word: iconology. Return to Cesare Ripa. Visible, legible, invisible. The notion of iconological content as transcendental synthesis. Panofsky's retreatFarther, too far: the idealist constraint. Third magic word: symbolic form. Where the sensible sign is absorbed by the intelligible. The pertinence of function, the idealism of "functional unity"From image to concept and from concept to image. Fourth magic word: schematism. The final unity of synthesis in representation. The image monogrammed, cut short, made "pure." A science of art under constraint to logic and metaphysics4. The Image as Rend and the Death of God IncarnateFirst approximation to renounce the schematism of the history of art: the rend. To open the image, to open logicWhere the dream-work smashes the box of representation. Work is not function. The power of the negative. Where resemblance works, plays, inverts, and dissembles. Where figuring equals disfiguringExtent and limits of the dream paradigm. Seeing and looking. Where dream and symptom decenter the subject of knowledgeSecond approximation to renounce the idealism of the history of art: the symptom.Panofsky the metapsychologist? On questioning the denial of the symptom. There is no Panofskian unconsciousThe Panofskian model of deduction faced with the Freudian paradigm of over-determination. The example of melancholy. Symbol and symptom. Constructed share, cursed shareThird approximation to renounce the iconographism of the history of art and the tyranny of imitation: the Incarnation. Flesh and body. The double economy: mimetic fabric and "upholstery buttons." The prototypical images of Christianity and the index of incarnationFor a history of symptomatic intensities. Some examples. Dissemblance and unction. Where figuring equals modifying figures equals disfiguringFourth approximation to renounce the humanism of the history of art: death. Resemblance as drama. Two medieval treatises facing Vasari: the rent subject facing the man of humanism. The history of art is a history of imbrogliosResemblance to life, resemblance to death. The economy of death in Christianity: the ruse and the risk. Where death insists in the image. And us, before the image?Appendix: The Detail and the PanThe aporia of the detailTo paint or to depictThe accident: material radianceThe symptom: slippage of meaningBeyond the detail principleNotesIndex

About the Author

Georges Didi-Huberman is on the faculty of the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris. His books include Fra Angelico: Dissemblance and Figuration (1995), Invention of Hysteria: Charcot and the Photographic Iconography of the Salpetriere (2003), and L'image survivante: Histoire de l'art et temps des fantomes selon Aby Warburg (English edition forthcoming from Penn State Press). John Goodman is an art historian and translator.


"Art history, Didi-Huberman argues, has had to 'kill' the symptomatic image, deny its violence and its 'dissembling,' in order to preserve its true object, art. Confronting Images is arguably the most important book-length analysis of the conceptual foundations of the discipline, and critique of the discipline, in any language." -Christopher Wood, Yale University"

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