Our Beautiful, Dry, and Distant Texts: Art History as Writing (Hardback)
  • Our Beautiful, Dry, and Distant Texts: Art History as Writing (Hardback)

Our Beautiful, Dry, and Distant Texts: Art History as Writing (Hardback)

Hardback 312 Pages / Published: 30/09/1997
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How do psychoanalytic, semiotic, deconstructive, and other interpretations represent works of art? What can they see, and what must they miss? In Our Beautiful, Dry, and Distant Texts, Elkins suggests that the philosophic problems posed by these questions are essentially insuperable because philosophy makes demands of visual artifacts that they can answer only by becoming mirror images of philosophic discourse.

Elkins argues that writing is what art historians produce, and, whether such writing is a transparent vehicle for the transmission of facts or an embattled forum for the rehearsal of institutional relations and constructions of history, it is an expressive medium, with the capacity for emotion and reflection. Therefore, it needs to be taken seriously for its own sake: it is the testament of art history and of individual historians, and it is only weakened and slighted by versions of history that imagine it either as uncontrolled dissemination or objective discovery and reporting.

Elkins's investigation is not a prescription for opening art history to new influences or for focusing it on particular problems. It is a plea for circumspection in the entire endeavor of trying to force images into words, and in the curious vocation of writing the history of art.

Publisher: Pennsylvania State University Press
ISBN: 9780271016306
Number of pages: 312
Weight: 1048 g
Dimensions: 254 x 178 x 21 mm


"Concerned with the rhetorical dimensions of art writing, Elkins identifies the ways in which immediate questions about the truth of interpretation are inevitably deflected by awareness of the stylistic qualities of art historians' texts. . . . Wildly imaginative at making connections, his highly original book inevitably will be one necessary starting point for all future discussion."

--David Carrier, Carnegie Mellon University

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