Interpreting Visual Culture: Explorations in the Hermeneutics of the Visual

By Ian Heywood; Barry Sandywell | Go to book overview

2

SPECULAR GRAMMAR

The visual rhetoric of modernity

Barry Sandywell


Introduction

This chapter belongs to a series of studies of different conceptions of consciousness and self-reflection in the formation of modern thought. In the first section I explore the rhetoric of 'inner perception' and 'specular reflection' associated with modern philosophy and exemplified by the Cartesian cogito. The second section analyses the presuppositions of this world-view, in particular the image of the solitary ego which this framework legitimated. In the third section the theme of visual representation and the spectatorial conception of knowledge are singled out for particular attention. Finally, in the fourth section, I suggest alternative, non-representational ways of construing experience and knowledge prefigured by dialogical conceptions of human existence in the thought of some philosophical critics of modernity. I suggest that this development involves a paradigm shift from a world-view based upon ocularcentric categories to ways of thinking grounded in social and dialogical practices.


The specular regime of modernity

If the classic thinkers created a cosmos after the model of dialectic, giving rational distinctions power to constitute and regulate, modern thinkers composed nature after the model of personal soliloquizing.

John Dewey, Experience and Nature, p. 173

The aim of this chapter is to explore the role of visual metaphors in the genealogy of modern philosophical reflection. I will argue that the mirror game of the reflective, representational subject functions as a constitutive discourse for the project of modernity. Like all cultural innovations the specular model of the mind's eye involved a repression of older paradigms of subjectivity. To forgo a very convoluted history I will assume that the Cartesian conception of the cogito's relation to objects was constructed upon the ruins of more ancient

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Interpreting Visual Culture: Explorations in the Hermeneutics of the Visual
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations vii
  • Part I - Rethinking the Visual in Contemporary Theory 1
  • 1 - The Hermeneutics of Seeing 3
  • 2 - Specular Grammar 30
  • 3 - Bakhtin and the Metaphorics of Perception 57
  • 4 - Durkheim's Double Vision 74
  • 5 - Readers of the Lost Art 99
  • 6 - Seeing Becoming Drawing 123
  • 7 - The 'Real Realm' 143
  • 8 - The Denigration of Vision and the Renewal of Painting 162
  • Part III - Towards an Ethics of the Visual 183
  • 9 - My Philosophical Project and the Empty Jug 185
  • 10 - 'Ever More Specific' 198
  • 11 - Aporia of the Sensible 218
  • Select Bibliography 251
  • Index 258
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