What Is an Image?

What Is an Image?

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What Is an Image? raises the stakes for writing in art history, visual studies, art theory, and art criticism by questioning one of the most fundamental terms of all, the image or picture. This innovative collection gathers some of the most influential historians and theorists working on images to discuss what the visual has come to mean. Topics include concepts such as image and picture in the West and outside it; the reception and rejection of semiotics; the question of what is outside the image; the question of whether images have a distinct nature or are products of discourse, like language; the relationship between images and religious meanings; and the study of non-art images in medicine, science, and technology.

Among the major writers represented in this book are Gottfried Boehm, Michael Ann Holly, Jacqueline Lichtenstein, W. J. T. Mitchell, Marie-Jose Mondzain, Keith Moxey, Parul Dave Mukherji, Wolfram Pichler, Alex Potts, and Adrian Rifkin.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 296 pages
  • 178 x 254 x 21mm | 544g
  • Pennsylvania, United States
  • English
  • 5 Charts; 3 Halftones, black and white
  • 0271050659
  • 9780271050652
  • 596,735

Table of contents


Series Preface


James Elkins

The Seminars

1 How Many Theories of Images Are There?

2 What Is Outside Images

3 Accounts of Images, and Accounts That Begin from Images

4 Ontology

5 Non-Western Accounts

6 Public and Private

7 Religion, Ritual, the Sacred

8 Painting and Images

9 Image, Notation, Graph . . .



James Elkins

Frederick M. Asher

Michael Ann Holly

Adrian Rifkin

Frank Vigneron

Keith Moxey

Harry Cooper

Parul Dave Mukherji

Thomas Baumeister

Vivian Sobchack

Alex Potts

Kavita Singh

Paul Messaris

Emmanuel Alloa

Aud Sissel Hoel

Ellen Chow

Xaq Pitkow

Crispin Sartwell

Klaus Speidel

Antonia Pocock

Paul Willemarck

Ruth Sonderegger

Thomas Macho and Jasmin Mersmann

Ciaran Benson

Christoph Luthy

Sebastian Egenhofer

Irmgard Emmelhainz

Ladislav Kesner

John Michael Krois

Karin Leonhard

Francesco Peri

Frederik Stjernfelt

Rainer Totzke

Michael Zimmermann

Sunil Manghani

Klaus Sachs-Hombach

Jose Luis Brea


Wolfram Pichler

Notes on the Contributors

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Review quote

"What Is an Image? offers a richly informative, wide-ranging, and open-ended ensemble of ideas and viewpoints that significantly advances the scholarly conversation. One of the great virtues of the volume is that it breaks with the standardized format of much academic writing to allow the coexistence of a plurality of voices and opinions. The reader is allowed to 'listen in' on a discussion that takes place at the cutting edge of current research and thereby gains a clear overview of the issues at stake in reconceptualizing the image."

-Jason Gaiger, The University of Oxford "What Is an Image? is bursting with incisive debate and suggestive commentary about the nature, diversity, and peculiarity of images, ranging from brief remarks to focused critiques to a sustained analytic afterword. In navigating the thicket of past and contemporary image theory, it juxtaposes an astonishing range of views-sometimes compatible, sometimes contradictory, always distinctive. But it never loses sight of core concerns, and it productively reopens and reorients some of the most challenging questions about our reception and representation of the visible world."

-Whitney Davis, University of California at Berkeley
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About James Elkins

James Elkins is Associate Professor in the Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Maja Naef is an art historian and art critic based in Basel, Switzerland.
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Rating details

6 ratings
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4 50% (3)
3 17% (1)
2 0% (0)
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