Dazwichen: Kulturwissenschaft Auf Warburgs Spuren (Saecula Spiritalia, 29) / Winckelmann and the Notion of Aesthetic Education / the Absolute Artist: The Historiography of A

Article excerpt

DIETER WUTTKE

Dazwischen: Kulturwissenschaft auf

Warburgs Spuren (Saecula Spiritalia, 29).

Baden-Baden: Verlag Valentin Koerner,

1996. 2 vols., 886 pp.; 4 color ills.; 180 b/w.

JEFFREY MORRISON

Winckelmann and the Notion of

Aesthetic Education

Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996. 274 pp.

$90.00

CATHERINE M. SOUSSLOFF

The Absolute Artist: The Historiography

of a Concept

Minneapolis: University of Minnesota

Press, 1997. 206 pp.; 8 bZw ills. $17.95

paper

MICHAEL ANN HOLLY

Past Looking: Historical Imagination

and the Rhetoric of the Image

Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1996. 214

pp.; 60 b/w ills. $39.95, $15.95 paper

"Uber Geschichte reden ist ein schwieriges Geschaft" (Talking about history is a difficult business)-so begins Dieter Wuttke's "Renaissance-Humanismus und Naturwissenschaft in Deutschland." These are the initial words in the second volume of Wuttke's collected essays, one of the four works related to the historiography of art here reviewed. In this essay Wuttke deals with familiar problems involving periodization and categorization of the sort raised in much writing about history. But the continuing and thoroughgoing interrogation of historiography in many fields has revealed more fundamental problems, not only of an epistemological but also of a political or even ethical nature. Each of the works under review suggests just how difficult talking about history and especially art history has become at the end of the 20th century.

Despite the difficulties of the subject, these books demonstrate that the healthy theoretical and methodological consciousness that has grown within art history during the past quarter-century can now claim a broader interest.1 Literature related to the historiography of art participates in a more general rethinking of the humanities. As evinced by his presence in two of the books art historians examined here, the efforts of Michel Foucault, among others, to investigate the archaeology of the human sciences-the origins and metamorphoses of scholarship as manifestations of modes of thinking and "discourse" in past ages-has stimulated this process in part. Beyond Foucault, this revival can also be regarded as a reckoning with or reexamination of premises that might ground art history as a science, in the sense of a Wissenschaft, to establish or reestablish procedures and practices of the discipline. In this regard the self-consciousness of art historians is salutary, because this attention was long overdue, especially in the United States. It is remarkable, for instance, how even leading thinkers of a previous generation, for whatever reason, eschewed much open discussion of theory or historiography when they came to the United States. According to the oral accounts of older colleagues, such discussions were absent, for example, in Erwin Panofsky's teaching at Princeton from the 1940s. Yet, even though scholars in other fields have taken up the discussion of historiography-while Soussloff and Holly were trained as art historians, Wuttke and Morrison are primarily scholars of literature-these books nevertheless suggest that writing about the historiography of art history has become increasingly problematic.

Strictly speaking, Dieter Wuttke's Dazwischen: Kulturwissenschaft auf Warburgs Spuren contains much more than essays on historiography. This book collects papers that the professor emeritus for medieval and early modern literature at the University of Bamberg had produced during a span of thirty years on a wide variety of topics. It contains important contributions to German humanism and its relation to the visual arts and to the so-called sciences. Some of these, especially Wuttke's essay on Conrad Celtis and Albrecht Durer. have served later historians' work on topics such as German artists' self-portraits. …