The Triangle of Representation

The Triangle of Representation

The Triangle of Representation

The Triangle of Representation

Synopsis

Moving deftly among literary and visual arts, as well as the modern critical canon, Christopher Prendergast's book explores the meaning and value of representation as both a philosophical challenge (What does it mean to create an image that "stands for" something absent?) and a political issue (Who has the right to represent whom?). The Triangle of Representation raises a range of theoretical, historical, and aesthetic questions, and offers subtle readings of such cultural critics as Raymond Williams, Paul de Man, Edward Said, Walter Benjamin, and H¿l¿ne Cixous, in addition to penetrating investigations of visual artists like Gros, Ingres, and Matisse and significant insights into Proust and the onus of translating him. Above all, Prendergast's work is a striking display of how a firm grounding in theory is essential for the exploration of art and literature.

Excerpt

Entering the prison house of Representation (in the rhetorically vivid though existentially gloomy metaphor with which certain commentators have sought to represent “representation”) can sometimes resemble taking on a life sentence. There are profound theoretical reasons why this might be so, and some of these are described in the following pages. But there can also be more contingently personal ones. In my own case, I first encountered the problematic of representation in a sustained way in connection with an attempt to think through a number of arguments centered on the category of mimesis (The Order of Mimesis, 1986), and since then, despite the sense of having had my say, however incompletely, it has actively and stubbornly continued to seek me out across a whole range of reencounters. The first encounter was essentially with a concept in ruins, carpet bombed by the formidable arsenals of contemporary critical theory. At the time, this relentless, and necessary, assault on the more naive and disingenuous mythologies of representational thinking struck me as in some ways trapped in naïvetés of its own, in particular the paradox (a form of which is in fact supplied by one of the princes of the new critical temper, Jacques Derrida, but which in other contexts went entirely unexamined) whereby to speak of representation in this way was itself . . .

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