"Few art historians have attempted to talk about scientific images, and fewer still have attended classes on quantum mechanics as preparation. Elkins's book is a fresh, original attempt to reckon with many kinds of images from the late twentieth century, ranging from modern art to astrophysics and beyond. Elkins skillfully explores how all of these images point, in their own ways, to the limits of representation. This engaging and wide-ranging study is quite an accomplishment; we need more books like this one." David Kaiser, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Specialists and general readers alike should welcome this stimulating attempt to foster a dialogue between disciplines. Informed and informative, it is comparative without being reductive, and it continues the author’s exploration of the strange threshold between words and pictures. Elkins looks at and writes about the limits of visual representation and of language about images. His curiosity is infectious.”
Martin Donougho, University of South Carolina
From the Inside Flap
In a wide-ranging argument moving from Sumerian demons to Lucian Freud, from Syriac prayer books to John Carpenter’s film The Thing, this book explores the ways the body has been represented through time. A response to the vertiginous increase in writings on bodily representations, it attempts to form a single coherent account of the possible forms of representation of the body.
The conceptual binding is provided by the idea of pain, understood as the set of images that elicit visceral, nonverbal, or uncognized responses, and the realm of metamorphosis, meaning the images that provoke intellection and, in particular, thoughts of change and concepts of alterity or representation. The author shows how pain and metamorphosis have animated and ordered the vast range of images that have been produced in Western representation, and he argues that pain and metamorphosis continue to be generative concepts even amid the welter of today’s new forms.
This work brings together concerns, images, and concepts from a wide range of perspectives: art history and criticism, the history and philosophy of medicine, the history of race, phenomenological and post-phenomenological thought, studies of feminism and pornography, and the new interest in visual studies. Yet it is less a philosopher’s look at history or a historian’s foray into philosophy than a practical and critical look at the current constellation of art practices. Above all, it is intended to be of immediate use in the conceptualization and production of visual art and its history.