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In 1992 W. J. T. Mitchell argued for a "pictorial turn" in the humanities, registering a renewed interest in and prevalence of pictures and images in what had been understood as an age of simulation, or an increasingly extensive and diverse visual culture. However, in what is often characterized as a society of the "spectacle" we still do not know exactly what pictures or images are, what their relation to language is, how they operate on observers and the world, how their history is to be understood, and what is to be done with or about them. In this seminal collection of essays, the first to be devoted to the "pictorial turn", theorists from across the humanities and social sciences, representing the disciplines of art history, philosophy, geography, media studies, visual studies and anthropology, are brought together with a paleontologist and practising artists to consider amongst other things the relation between pictures and images, the power of landscape, the nature of political images, the status of images in the natural sciences, the "life" of images, and the pictorial uncanny. With these topics in mind, picture theory and iconology exceed in scope the objects of visual culture conventionally understood. This book was published as a special issue of Culture, Theory and Critique.
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.
In examining the impact of the modern poster, I investigate the status of the image in Berlin modernism. To a great extent, the implementation of poster art as an advertising tool is arguably part of a larger trend towards the visual in Wilhelmine Berlin. Poster art serves as an invaluable artifact through which to evaluate the relationship between the image, public and modernization, as the ascent of the visual is paired with the means by which the public was recognized as a subject worthy of address and was able to act independently of the state, specifically through the city's modern economy.
Why do we have such extraordinarily powerful responses toward the images and pictures we see in everyday life? Why do we behave as if pictures were alive, possessing the power to influence us, to demand things from us, to persuade us, seduce us, or even lead us astray? According to W. J. T. Mitchell, we need to reckon with images not just as inert objects that convey meaning but as animated beings with desires, needs, appetites, demands, and drives of their own. What Do Pictures Want? explores this idea and highlights Mitchell's innovative and profoundly influential thinking on picture theory and the lives and loves of images. Ranging across the visual arts, literature, and mass media, Mitchell applies characteristically brilliant and wry analyses to Byzantine icons and cyberpunk films, racial stereotypes and public monuments, ancient idols and modern clones, offensive images and found objects, American photography and aboriginal painting. Opening new vistas in iconology and the emergent field of visual culture, he also considers the importance of Dolly the Sheep—who, as a clone, fulfills the ancient dream of creating a living image—and the destruction of the World Trade Center on 9/11, which, among other things, signifies a new and virulent form of iconoclasm. What Do Pictures Want? offers an immensely rich and suggestive account of the interplay between the visible and the readable. A work by one of our leading theorists of visual representation, it will be a touchstone for art historians, literary critics, anthropologists, and philosophers alike. “A treasury of episodes—generally overlooked by art history and visual studies—that turn on images that ‘walk by themselves’ and exert their own power over the living.”—Norman Bryson, Artforum
The pictorial turn in the humanities and social sciences has foregrounded the political power of images and the extent to which historical, political, social, and cultural processes and practices are shaped visually. Political iconographies are taken to interpret norms of actions, support ideological formations, and enhance moral concepts. Visual rhetorics are understood as active players in the construction and contestation of the political realm and public space. The twenty-one articles by scholars from Europe and the United States explore the political function and cultural impact of images from the perspectives of Art History, American Studies, Visual Culture Studies, History, and Political Science. The contributions in particular address the complex interplay between agent and addressee in the public space as well as issues of national identity, discourses of inclusion and exclusion, and the designation of political spaces within transnational contexts. The publication is part of the interdisciplinary research initiative “Perceiving and Understanding: Functions, Perception Processes, Forms of Visualizations, Cultural Strategies of Pictures and Texts” at the University of Regensburg.
The Linguistic Turn provides a rich and representative introduction to the entire historical and doctrinal range of the linguistic philosophy movement. In two retrospective essays titled "Ten Years After" and "Twenty-Five Years After," Rorty shows how his book was shaped by the time in which it was written and traces the directions philosophical study has taken since. "All too rarely an anthology is put together that reflects imagination, command, and comprehensiveness. Rorty's collection is just such a book."—Review of Metaphysics

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