Encyclopedia of Aesthetics: 4-volume Set edited by Michael Kelly (Oxford University Press) many encyclopedias no matter how extensive or learned the articles, often leave the curious reader with a sense of flatness, to which there is no depth, no questions left unanswered. The Encyclopedia of Aesthetics however has avoided this pitfall. The articles are extensive, well-written and leave of this reader with a sense of engagement, even practical knowledge, so that I might listen to a piece of music with more perception, enjoy a painting in new ways, and even be so delighted as to hunt down some of the titles listed in the bibliographies at the end of the articles. This encyclopedia could and should enjoy a wide readership because it more than provides the scope of aesthetics today; it also invites readers into the participation and recognition of beauty.
Excerpt: Aesthetics is uniquely situated to serve as a meeting place for numerous academic disciplines and cultural traditions. While it is a single branch of philosophy concerned with art, aesthetics is also a part of other disciplines—such as art history, literary theory, law, sociology—that reflect equally, if differently, about art in its natural and cultural contexts. At the same time, aesthetics is an eighteenth-century European development that has not been duplicated anywhere else. Of course, all other cultures around the world have their own "art," and most also have traditions of reflecting philosophically about it. To the extent that they have developed such reflection, whatever they have chosen to call it, these cultures are engaged in a practice related to Western aesthetics. So aesthetics is, in academic terms, both singular and general, and, in cultural terms, both local and global. To capture these multiple dimensions, the Encyclopedia of Aesthetics has been created using a definition of aesthetics as "critical reflection on art, culture, and nature."
The purpose of this encyclopedia is to contribute to a discursive public sphere in which people representing the disciplines and traditions engaged in aesthetics will be able to articulate their perspectives on the field, thereby fostering dialogue and, where possible, constructing common ground without imposing consensus. To this end, the encyclopedia, which is the first English-language reference work on this scale devoted to aesthetics, offers a combination of historical reference material and critical discussions of contemporary aesthetics intended for general readers and experts alike.
HISTORY OF AESTHETICS
The term aesthetics is derived from the ancient Greek word aisthesis (also spelled aesthesis), which means perception or sensation. In its original usage, the word was related to perceptual or sensory knowledge, usually in contrast to conceptual or rational knowledge, but had little or no specific relevance to art. The initial lack of connection between aesthetics and art reflects the fact that, at the time, there was no word for what Westerners now regard as art; the Greek word for art, techne, is closer to the English word craft. Of course, the philosophy of art existed in Plato and Aristotle's age, just as there was Greek "art." Nevertheless, aesthetics did not become connected to art until the eighteenth century. Developments within art and philosophy—as well as within other disciplines concerned with art—account for the eventual link between aesthetics and art that is the historical subject of this encyclopedia.
From the classical era to the Middle Ages, reflection on art developed through the work of philosophers such as Augustine, Plotinus, Aquinas, and others. During the Renaissance, when art flourished in unparalleled ways, such reflection also experienced a revival as many classical aesthetic ideas were rediscovered and developed in new directions. What was most common during these periods, however, were treatises about individual arts, such as painting, music, or poetry, rather than any theory about art in general. There was also considerable discussion about whether it was possible to distinguish art from craft. Finally, when people wrote about the arts, they typically did so without philosophically analyzing the principles of criticism they were implicitly invoking. In short, aesthetics proper had not yet emerged.
All of this changed in the eighteenth century, mostly in France, Germany, and Great Britain. There was a historical coincidence between a new-found tendency on the part of writers to generalize about the arts and a heightened concern in philosophy for sensory knowledge independent of logical knowledge. The distinction of types of knowledge, inspired in part by the birth of modern science based on empiricism, introduced aesthetics into philosophy; but, following the lead of Alexander Baumgarten, aesthetics still had little to do with art. This was a strange development indeed in the inaugural century of aesthetics: those beginning to generalize about art did not use the term aesthetics, while those practicing aesthetics were not principally interested in art. It was not until Immanuel Kant's Critique of judgment (1790) that these two tendencies were systematically united, setting the agenda for aesthetics ever since.
Although this union was unquestionably an important step in the early and subsequent history of aesthetics, overemphasis on it tends to obscure an equally important dimension of this history, which is central to the rationale for the encyclopedia. Although it is true that aesthetics emerged in the eighteenth century within philosophy, this would not have been possible without developments in art and cultural criticism that had been evolving since at least the Renaissance. Critics—whether philosophers, poets, or writers—began writing about art in general rather than just about the individual arts. Some compared the different arts, as was the case in the "Ut pictura poesis" ("as a painting, so a poem") tradition, whereas others argued that each art form could be properly understood only on individual terms: painting is independent of poetry, which is independent of music, and so on. In its first century, aesthetics was thus marked by a fundamental philosophical disagreement about whether generalizing about art was an advancement in the understanding of the arts. It is this disagreement, rather than just the tendency toward generalizations, that separated Western aesthetics in the eighteenth century from its prior history as well as from other cultural traditions.
In that same period, the individual arts in Europe were becoming more accessible to the public than they had ever been before, for they were no longer so closely tied to religion and politics once the church and monarchy ceased being the exclusive patrons of the arts. There was, in short, a secularization and democratization of the arts and culture in the eighteenth century that contributed to the formation of a cultural public sphere. Criticism was the term most widely used to characterize discussions about the arts and culture; in fact, the term critique, which Kant transformed in his Critique of Pure Reason, began in part as the German translation of the English word criticism. This transformation marks the birth of aesthetics as a part of philosophy, but it also highlights the fact that philosophical aesthetics emerged out of a broader cultural context.
From its inception until the present, aesthetics has continued to be distinguished by both its philosophical and cultural roles, even though some theorists have at times at-tempted to restrict aesthetics to just one of its roles. Moreover, the fact that aesthetics has always had these dual roles has made the present encyclopedia both possible and necessary: possible, because the entries here could not have been written unless there were people in various disciplines outside of philosophy writing philosophically about art, culture, and nature; and necessary, because aesthetics remains incomplete if its cultural role is not developed. The goal of the Encyclopedia of Aesthetics is to trace the genealogy of aesthetics in such a way as to integrate these two roles.
The Encyclopedia of Aesthetics has been created, and may now be received, in a skeptical environment. It is important to address this skepticism here because it is based on a misconception of aesthetics that the encyclopedia aims to correct in an effort to revitalize the field.
Many people concerned with art and culture today seem to want to distance them-selves from aesthetics. Ask students or general readers what aesthetics is, and most will say that it has something to do with beauty (an impression reinforced by the colloquial use of aesthetic to mean "beautiful") and that it is a thing of the past. Artists, as a group, rarely express any more interest in aesthetics than Barnett Newman did when he remarked that aesthetics is for artists what ornithology is for birds. Art historians and anthropologists typically do not identify with aesthetics either, unless their research involves art created in periods when aesthetics was still considered relevant. Finally, others involved with con-temporary art—critics, legal theorists, sociologists—also do not generally see themselves as concerned with aesthetics, since they regard it as part of philosophy rather than of their own fields.
Why do these diverse groups of people distance themselves from aesthetics, even though they all are involved with art and culture? What they typically object to is the idea that art can be understood according to a set of universal principles about its immutable properties; the term aesthetics suggests this idea to them. It is seen as a branch of philosophy that effectively died once modern art began to challenge the classical view of art as the imitation, often in the guise of beauty, of the universal qualities of nature or reality. So aesthetics is thereby relegated to the history of art and philosophy prior to modernism.
Ask contemporary aestheticians what they do, however, and they are likely to respond that aesthetics is the philosophical analysis of the beliefs, concepts, and theories implicit in the creation, experience, interpretation, or critique of art. It would be unusual for them to include beauty as one of their major research topics; they talk more often about the problems of meaning or representation in connection with works of art. Moreover, most aestheticians—both analytic (Anglo-American) and continental (European, exclusive of Great Britain) alike—would agree that there are no universal properties of art and that art can be defined, if at all, only in historical (if still philosophical) terms. In fact, both analytic and continental aesthetics in the last fifty years have been dominated by anti-essentialism: the view either that art has no essence or that it is impossible for us to ascertain what its essence is. This means that nearly all contemporary aestheticians are equally critical of the idea of aesthetics that is rejected by nonphilosophers.
Moreover, not only is it a misconception to identify contemporary aesthetics with the universalist idea of aesthetics, the history of aesthetics is replete with critiques of that same idea and alternatives to it. These critiques were evident even in the eighteenth century. For example, although there was considerable discussion of beauty at that time, aesthetics emerged only once beauty lost its status as an objective or transcendental property, which it virtually had since Plato. Modern philosophers argued that beauty is not a property of objects (e.g., works of art) experienced or judged as beautiful; rather, it is a relational property between subjects and objects. So aesthetics began, in part, with the following problem: How is it possible to speak with any objectivity about matters of taste if beauty is subjective? The question of the universality of taste arose in this same context. Whereas some philosophers argued that taste is universal despite being subjective, others were doubtful that universality was possible again after the subjective turn in our understanding of beauty. This debate was not resolved at the time, nor has it been since. This means, however, that the conventional view of aesthetics held by its critics (and some of its sup-porters) is as imprecise relative to the history of aesthetics as it is to its present state. So the skepticism about aesthetics is best addressed by reevaluating the meaning and history of aesthetics; such reevaluation is what this encyclopedia offers.
There is also a prevailing skepticism today about encyclopedias that should be discussed here as well. One of the marks of our present age, which is typically characterized as postmodern, is a skepticism toward any claims about philosophical systems or historical grand narratives (i.e., ones that emphasize the unity and ultimate goal of historical development). Many people today believe that, in principle, such systems are incomplete and all historical narratives impose a false unity while they exclude certain cultures' perspectives. In the interest of pluralism, we are encouraged to abandon any and all systems and narratives. The publication of an encyclopedia, especially one that gives philosophy a central role, may seem to violate these postmodern injunctions, though only if it is thought to venture a narrative or system of aesthetics. Because of this attitude, it was even suggested that we exclude the word encyclopedia from the title of this work.
Our response to this skepticism was to incorporate the contemporary doubts about the encyclopedia into its very structure. This has been achieved in various ways, principally by including the following among the entries themselves: (1) critiques of aesthetics; (2) discussions of postmodernism; (3) composite (multi-article) entries so topics could be analyzed from several perspectives; and (4) representations of virtually all the disciplines involved with art and culture, even though people in these fields may not see themselves as being engaged in aesthetics. In none of these cases was any effort made to shape a system or a grand narrative of aesthetics. Efforts were made to be comprehensive, however, though here comprehensive means as complete a representation as possible of all the competing ideas about aesthetics.
GENERAL STRUCTURE OF THE ENCYCLOPEDIA
The encyclopedia includes more than six hundred essays, alphabetically arranged, on approximately four hundred individuals, concepts, periods, theories, issues, and movements in the history of aesthetics. The entries range from the most ancient aesthetic traditions around the world to the Greco-Roman era, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, Romanticism, Modernism, and Postmodernism, up to the present. The central historical focus, however, is the genealogy of Western aesthetics from its inception in the early eighteenth century in Europe to the present. How was the Western understanding of art and culture transformed during that period? How has it developed since then? What is its present status? Specifically, how have key aesthetic concepts and issues—such as appropriation, autonomy, beauty, genius, iconology, ideology, metaphor, originality, semiotics, sexuality, taste, and truth—evolved?
The entries in the encyclopedia have been written by more than five hundred philosophers, art historians, literary theorists, psychologists, feminist theorists, legal theorists, sociologists, anthropologists, and others who reflect critically on art, culture, and nature. The range of contributors is important because of the interdisciplinary nature of aesthetics, both now and throughout its history. For example, one cannot understand Romanticism and appreciate its aesthetic significance without studying what it means in philosophical and literary terms as well as how it manifested itself differently in the visual arts and in music. There are numerous topics of such conceptual or historical complexity in the encyclopedia that can be fully understood only if they are approached through multiple disciplines.
The goal, however, is not to impose or legitimate any single discipline's way of under-standing aesthetics. Philosophy, for example, certainly occupies a central position in the encyclopedia; its important task is to clarify the terms, principles, concepts, and theories employed by the disciplines (including philosophy) engaged in aesthetics. But philosophy is also just one of many disciplines, evidenced by the fact that a majority of the encyclopedia entries were written by nonphilosophers. Moreover, the purpose of the work is not to resolve the differences among the various disciplines; rather, it is to provide, as a good encyclopedia should, a comprehensive catalog of what these differences are, how they originated, what the disciplines may have in common, and what is at stake in the conflicting views contributors espouse. Our aim has been to provide as much reliable information as we could assemble so that readers can make informed decisions about how best to understand "Beauty," the "Origins of Aesthetics," "Popular Culture," the "Comparative Aesthetics" of the African and Western traditions, "Kant," or any of the other topics included in the encyclopedia.
At every moment of its history, aesthetics has been related in complementary and critical ways to the art of its time. So there is considerable discussion in the encyclopedia of major art periods (e.g., the Renaissance), movements (Modernism), and issues (perspective) in the history of art. Such discussions range from Greco-Roman, Baroque, or Impressionist art to the most contemporary art forms, such as conceptual, installation, or performance art. The focus in these entries is both historical and theoretical so readers will understand what is unique about each art-historical issue and how it has influenced aesthetic theory.
While the aesthetic history and art periodization utilized here are largely Western, comparisons are made throughout the encyclopedia with non-Western art forms and their distinct aesthetic traditions. Such comparisons are made in two ways: (1) by having overview essays on each of these traditions (e.g., Chinese, Indian, Islamic, Latin American) and, where possible, (2) by integrating non-Western perspectives into discussions of central aesthetic concepts, principles, and issues (e.g., Japanese appreciation of nature). The first measure helps readers to understand these other traditions, which in some cases have greatly influenced their Western counterparts or have been shaped by them. The second measure is important so that non-Western ideas of aesthetics are not isolated from their Western counterparts. The two practices combined serve, in effect, to historicize the tradition of Western aesthetics by demonstrating that it is, after all, just one of many traditions.
The emphasis in the entries on key figures (e.g., Plato, Kant, Heidegger) is theoretical rather than biographical. The contributors explain the subjects' ideas about aesthetics, while clarifying the historical and conceptual contexts for these ideas. References to clarify these contexts are provided in the bibliographies, along with biographical titles, where possible. In addition to the lengthy entries on major thinkers, there are short (five-hundred-word) entries on some significant but lesser-known figures (e.g., Charles Batteux and Moses Mendelssohn). The aim here is to paint a comprehensive picture of the historical background of modern and contemporary aesthetics.
Coverage of many central individuals and concepts in aesthetics and most major art forms (e.g., architecture, dance, photography) has been arranged in composite entries, that is, several separate articles arranged under one headword. The rationale for this type of entry is to give voice to: (1) extensive histories of a specific topic (e.g., beauty or landscape) too broad to be handled by one contributor; (2) independent philosophical views of a single central issue (e.g., metaphor or autonomy); (3) individual perspectives on a topic (e.g., historicism) that is important in each of several disciplines (e.g., aesthetics, art
history, literary theory); (4) several accounts of an activity (e.g., criticism) that is practiced differently in the particular arts (e.g., music, art, dance); (5) individuals (e.g., Kant) who are central in the history of aesthetics because of their influential accounts of key aesthetic concepts; and (6) other cases where there are significantly diverse aspects or ac-counts of a single aesthetic issue.
Each composite entry combines conceptual and historical overviews with in-depth analyses of particular issues or ideas. For example, the entry on Immanuel Kant begins with an overview essay explaining who Kant was, what he wrote, and what he wrote particularly on aesthetics. This is followed by essays on Kant's concepts of beauty, the sub-lime, and nature; a brief history of Kantian aesthetics; essays on Kant's reception in art history, on the hermeneutic reading of Kant, and on the feminist critique of Kant; and, finally, an essay on the connection between Kant and Marcel Duchamp in terms of the concept of judgment. The combined essays offer a wide range of interpretations to the general reader and allow those possessing more advanced understanding to pursue the finer points of aesthetics. The contributors of articles in these entries were not asked to discuss each others' work directly; rather, they were invited to articulate their own positions on the selected issues as clearly and forcefully as possible, knowing that other points of view would be similarly represented in the same entry. (Such representation of diverse perspectives on key issues in aesthetics is what I have referred to as a discursive public sphere.)
CRITERIA FOR THE INCLUSION OF ENTRIES
Topics were chosen according to the following general criteria: (1) philosophical or critical significance in the histories of aesthetics, art, or fields related to aesthetics or art; (2) relevance to contemporary aesthetics; and (3) historical or contemporary importance in non-Western cultures. In the entries devoted to particular cultural traditions (e.g., Islamic, Latin American), the contributors were asked to address the following questions: What difference do their sovereign cultural histories make to their conceptions of aesthetics in comparison to their Western counterparts? Do they have unique ways of thinking about aesthetics as well as original art? Does their critical reflection on art and culture provide evidence of a universal aesthetic or, on the contrary, does it confirm the radical historicist's claim that aesthetics, like art, is fundamentally different in each culture?
The topics of the composite entries were selected (1) because of their significance in the history of aesthetics, or (2) because of ongoing debates among experts in the relevant specialties who represent diverse disciplinary, philosophical, or cultural perspectives. The aim of this structure is to achieve with these entries the comprehensiveness one expects from encyclopedia entries, but also to make the rich variety of ideas about individual aesthetic topics more accessible to one another.
With these criteria in mind, the encyclopedia has aimed to have historical depth and representative breadth to encompass (1) the key centuries (eighteenth to twentieth) and countries (Germany, France, Great Britain, United States) in the history of Western aesthetics; (2) the different disciplinary perspectives (e.g., philosophy, art history, law, sociology) on the key topics; (3) the various cultures (e.g., African, Indian, Latin American) that have a history of thinking critically on their "art" and culture without necessarily calling such thinking "aesthetics"; (4) many of the arts, traditional and new, that have had a defining impact on aesthetics; (5) various historical and contemporary critiques of aesthetics (e.g., Romanticism, hermeneutics, anti-essentialism, feminism); and (6) the few disciplines that have emerged, in part, as the result of critiques of aesthetics (e.g., cultural studies).
There are undoubtedly some missing topics, and there are several reasons for this. In some instances we planned an entry but either could not find a suitable contributor or the contributor was not able to respond in a timely fashion; we considered some additional entries but decided in the end that they were not appropriate, given the overall goals of the encyclopedia; finally, despite all our efforts to be inclusive and thorough, we regrettably have overlooked certain possible entries. Every encyclopedia has its limitations when it comes to the list of entries; for, as critics are likely to point out, the categorization of entries in an encyclopedia is arbitrary. But the choices and ordering of categories can be intelligible and reasonable nonetheless. We have tried to be comprehensive without being systematic, and we have stated the criteria for the selection of entries as clearly as possible so that readers will know how and why we have made the choices embodied in the encyclopedia. Readers are asked to remember that the encyclopedia is intended as the beginning rather than the end of critical discussion about the genealogy and contemporary practice of aesthetics within philosophy and related disciplines.
Entries are alphabetically arranged, strictly letter by letter. In order to explain the structure and content of the composite entries, each of them begins with an editorial headnote. Brief headnotes are also occasionally present in cases where the entry comprises a single essay (e.g., "Gaze," "Theory, History of") to clarify the topic or offer a rationale for its inclusion for the general reader.
In order to maximize the interconnections among the entries and to guide the reader to related discussion, numerous cross-references have been included throughout the work. These are located within individual articles (mostly at the end of the discussion) as well as in the headnotes to the composite entries. In addition, within the alphabetical order of headwords, there are numerous "blind entries" that provide cross-references to the articles where the subject is discussed. Blind entries are used for alternate spellings and synonyms (e.g., "Ekphrasis. See Ecphrasis"; "Cinema. See Film") as well as in cases where in-stead of an independent entry devoted to a subject, there is a significant discussion within another article ("Boas, Franz. See Anthropology and Aesthetics") or, for broad topics (e.g., painting), spread among several articles. The comprehensive index at the end of volume 4 provides additional connections among the topics and disciplines for readers interested in further research.
The illustration program is modest if it is compared to art reference works, but generous if compared to reference works in philosophy, which typically have few or no images. We have tried to strike a balance between these extremes. While we could not possibly offer a complete representation of the history of art because this is an encyclopedia of aesthetics, we wanted to make it clear that aesthetics is intimately related to the history of art. At the same time, it is important that we have some imagery so that it does not seem that words are taking the place of art. The relationship between aesthetics and art is a very sensitive issue within aesthetics, as it assuredly is for those who criticize aesthetics for being iconoclastic. The presence of some images here makes it clear that this relationship is open-ended: aesthetic theory is always responding to art rather than supplanting it. The illustrations are also intended to reflect a wide spectrum of different art traditions and cultures (e.g., African, Pre-Columbian, Indian), as well as the historical depth (e.g., Greek, Modern), stylistic breadth (e.g., Gothic, Surrealist), and diversity of art mediums (e.g., sculpture, film) within art.
Schirmer Encyclopedia of Art (4-Volume Set) edited by Ann Landi (Gale Group) The past decade or so has seen a tremendous increase of I interest in the visual arts. Museum attendance is steadily on the rise; galleries devoted to the art of our times and the art of the past are flourishing; and there are probably more artists of note today than at any other point in the history of humankind. In New York alone, it has been estimated that there are some 60,000 practicing artists. As the contemporary painter and sculptor Frank Stella noted recently, with some astonishment, "Until now, there weren't even 60,000 artists since the beginning of time."
Ours is also an increasingly visual culture, more and more dependent on signs and images instead of the written text. Television sets flicker for part of the day in most households; we cruise the Internet, encountering new forms of visual stimulus; our public spaces are littered with ever‑larger billboards and neon advertisements. What a pleasure it is, then, to walk into a gallery or museum, into the relative sanity and quiet, where the eye can feast on images by artists long‑gone or of the moment. And small wonder we are curious about the people who made these images, so many of which‑like Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa, Rodin's Thinker, or the woodblock prints of the eighteenthcentury Japanese masters‑have become instantly recognizable as touchstones of our cultural past.
When I was a high school student, thirty‑some years ago, there was no comprehensive volume that offered easily accessible information on art and artists. The standard references were H. W. Janson's History of Art and E. H. Gombrich's The Story of Art, both excellent books and still fortunately very much in use. Janson's text is now in its sixth edition, published 2001; the sixteenth edition of The Story of Art was published in 1995. Neither, however, is in an encyclopedic form, and each has its biases. Gombrich, for instance, offers scant discussion of photography, which in the last 150 years has gained sufficient respectability as an art form to merit museum departments and prestigious exhibitions. Like Gombrich, Janson's history takes a European perspective that does not convey the sweep of Asian or African art. Nor was there a reference that handily defined the many terms that the average student (or adult!) reader runs across in discussions of art‑contrapposto, sfumato, impasto, cuneiform, apse, caryatid, and the like. One had to work with a glossary at the back or keep a dictionary of art terms within easy reach.
Because of the growth of interest in art history, scholars have started to reassess traditional ways of thinking about art and culture. What was once called "primitive" art is more carefully studied and weighed; the contributions of men and women outside the Western mainstream are increasingly recognized; and little‑known artists and schools of art are steadily being evaluated and re‑evaluated. Without losing perspective on what makes some artists great and many more worth the acquaintance, the contributors and editors of the Schirmer Encyclopedia of Art have kept abreast of new findings and incorporated them herein.
In addition to offering sophisticated and up‑to‑date information for the older student and the general reader, the Schirmer Encyclopedia of Art was designed to present information in an approachable A to Z format. The nearly 300 biographies focus on the kinds of facts and anecdotes that will be of interest to young and questing minds, while over 100 topical articles cover eras, movements, and genres. In particular, the historical overviews give a sense of what was happening in the culture at large‑the way war, politics, and religion played their roles in shaping the visual arts. The paintings, drawings, sculpture, architecture, and photography reproduced here, of course, speak for themselves.
Cross-referencing within entries is indicated by a special small capital typeface. This makes it easy for readers to look up separate entries on major periods, artists within the same schools or movements, artistic techniques, and formal and stylistic developments. Cross‑references that appear at the end of entries offer additional guidelines for the reader. Sidebars provide commentary on the unfolding story of art, including profiles of collectors, patrons, dealers, and critics; historical footnotes; and period highlights. Volumes one through three contain a volume‑specific index, while volume four includes a comprehensive index for the entire set. A list of "Suggested Resources" appears at the end of volume four, which offers readers a variety of sources to help them continue their exploration of art and culture.
Recommended for libraries with a younger clientele, high school and junior college level, which have need of a well-illustrated, easy-to-use, well-designed basic resource about art history. It is not a Eurocentric as many and is written with clear definitions in the margins. These volumes would make a fine single volume resource for a general audience, repackaged with a few more illustrations.
ENCYCLOPEDIA OF COMPARATIVE ICONOGRAPHY: Themes Depicted in Works of Art edited by Helene E. Roberts ($250.00, hardcover, b&w illustrations, Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers; ISBN: 1579580092)
This useful intermediate reference work offers some fine introductory discussions of narrative themes in western art. It will be of use to docents and other students of western iconology. eastern and native conventions of iconology are only incidentally alluded to.
It is the purpose of this encyclopedia to show the variety of uses to which general narrative themes and plots have been imaged in the history of art and to discuss some of the changing interpretations as the themes pass through different ages, cultures, and forms. This encyclopedia orders iconographic narratives in particular biblical, mythological, and literary texts according to actions performed by the characters, to situations in which they find themselves, and to concepts relating to these situations and actions. Under the letter "A," for example, instead of relating the stories of Aaron, Aeneas, and Ariadne, as many iconographic dictionaries do, this encyclopedia treats the themes of abandonment, abduction, and adultery. The authors discuss the major relevant iconographic narratives incorporating the theme, mention other less known narratives, and discuss the historical background of themes. The authors also pay attention to differences in the visual presentation of a theme, in particular to differences between the biblical and mythological treatments of the theme. They also suggest how a theme has evolved through time.
The essays also discuss various personifications, allegories, gestures, characteristics, and other subjects that recur in works of art. Essays on themes such as abundance, caricature, communion, fools/folly, pointing/indicating, and upside down trace the various ways these themes have been given different form and how they have been used for different purposes in art through the ages.
There are many excellent volumes available that retell the mythological, religious, and literary narratives that provide the iconographic sources for works of art and even some although the number is fewer that list and discuss works of art related to these themes. Furthermore, there are many monographs and articles that treat individual subjects and the works of art that depict them in detail. Although these excellent and irreplaceable studies exist, (many of which are included in the lists of further reading in this encyclopedia), what is lacking are works that relate these various narratives and subjects to each other according to the similarities of their plots, situations, or imagery. Few existing reference books discuss how the descriptions relate to the works of art, and only a few of these existing studies discuss the differences in nuance and focus given to these subjects throughout history and in various cultures. There is, in fact, no reference volume that uses a comparative method to describe the use of iconography in art or that is organized from the point of view of actions, situations, or concepts, rather than by the personages in mythological, biblical, or literary narratives.
In many of these essays particular attention is paid to gestures, costumes, composition, and other techniques of visual expression associated with the themes. Many authors also include works of art by artists who have been neglected in the traditional histories of Western art. A list of "Selected Works of Art" that depict each theme and a "Further Reading" for each essay provide more sources of information about the themes and about the relevant works of art that depict them.
Because the telling of a narrative or relaying a description of a theme from a single source is like taking a snapshot in time, the collection of such narratives, themes, or snapshots from different ages, genres, and cultures forms a valuable album of photographs. From such an album one can compare, contrast, analyze, discover patterns, and make generalizations about how different artists and societies have appropriated narratives and themes. In fact, only through the comparison and analysis of many individual instances can patterns be isolated.
The contributors to this encyclopedia make several kinds of comparisons relevant to each theme. Several different narratives incorporating the theme are compared in essays. The sources of the narratives may range from ancient and classical mythology, to the great religions of the world, to literature, folktales, and popular culturen The essay on the theme of adultery, for example, compares the classical myths with the Arthurian legends, with the Christian narratives, and with secular themes. The contributors may also compare the story line of a narrative to the way it is visualized in a work of art. The comparative method may extend this difference to discuss the way a narrative or concept is treated in the different genres of literature and of art, with especial focus on the comic and the symbolic.
The essays also trace the various interpretations given to a theme during different periods and cultures to account for varying social and political beliefs. A people defines itself through the configurations of its literary, religious, and mythical narratives. When a society begins to see itself in a different light, that change is often announced by a recasting of favorite stories or the introduction of new ones. In the essay on abandonment, for example, the focus in the narrative of the abandonment of Ariadne by Theseus shifts from the Greeks, who, wishing to absolve their hero Theseus of any guilt, show him unwillingly being led from the sleeping Ariadne by imperious gods or goddesses, to the Victorians, who, obsessed with the victimized female, focus on the distress of the abandoned Ariadne.
Many of the authors compare the situation described in the narratives with the realities of history. This comparative analysis can reveal national aspirations and fears, changes in economic and political fortunes, as well as sources of present-day customs and conventions. The author of the essay on abduction, for example, traces the laws and mores of various cultures condoning or condemning abduction and shows how vestiges of some of the ancient practices are still retained in modern marriage rituals. The essay even alludes to twentieth-century humans who claim they have been abducted by aliens from outer space, which have been identified in one case with the Babylonian goddess Ishtar. Like the allusive reflections of historical memory in ancient mythology, even the more secular present can conflate fact and fiction into new myths, especially when it comes to powerful images.
Although every essay uses one or more of these comparative approaches such as narratives, styles and periods, interpretations, historical reality, few could all of them within the confines of the limited space.
Art historical studies have shifted from a concentration on attribution, style, and form to a concern with the context of a work of art and with the wider ramifications of its subject matter. Art historians have broken down the enclosed world of stylistic influence to study the relation of works of art to historic events and economic forces, to psychological phenomenon and sociological findings, and to linguistic analysis and philosophic theories. Because of these changes, many people are interested not only in the style and form of a work of art but also in the human dynamics of the narratives and themes and their permeations and permutations. Art historians now study the themes depicted in works of art in relation to such subjects as gender and sexuality, politics and power, ownership and possession, ceremony and ritual, legitimacy and authority.
Classical mythology, religious texts, and literary works provide such a rich imbroglio of relationships, situations, and associations that they have been appropriated for a variety of uses. The narratives describe instances of rape, ruination, empowerment, victimization, and inexplicable fortune, not to mention their descriptions of inescapable guilt, hubris, greed, pride, arrogance, passion, metamorphosis, sexual and gender ambiguities, courage, cowardice, and a host of other universal human predicaments. Each narrative is open to interpretation because of the shifting perspectives of diverse agendas. This encyclopedia is not a comprehensive guide to all narratives and all themes, but it presents some of the revealing comparisons that can be found in artistic depictions of these narratives. These comparisons, along with the "Selected Works of Art" and "Further Reading" that accompany each essay, suggest subject areas and directions for further research.
Each essay opens with a "title page" that lists the title and author of the essay and an outline of iconographic narratives, motifs, or periods covered. A black and white reproduction of a work of art that depicts the theme usually precedes the discussion.
The encyclopedia also provides seven extensive indexes. The "Index of Ancient Mythological and Historical Personages, Places, and Concepts" allows the user to find and identify all references in the essays to the ancient and classical world, including ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia as well as ancient Greece and Rome. In this index the reader can find all the ancient gods, goddesses, heroes, and heroines mentioned in the essays; places, real and imaginary; and personages. The indexes can also reveal the web of associations that characterize each narrative and concept.
In a similar fashion another index, the "Index of Judeo-Christian Personages, Places, and Concepts," lists the personages from the Old and New Testaments mentioned in the essays as well as places, saints, theological concepts, historical personages, and movements connected with the Jewish and Christian tradition.
The "Index of References to the Bible and Other Sacred Books" lists specific references to texts cited in the essays. The "Index of Other Cultures, Religions, and Mythologies" includes references to the names and terms of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam, as well as those of the Aztec, African, Inuit, Celtic, Norse, and Native American cultures mentioned in the essays. This Encyclopedia only incidentally mentions nonwestern artistic motifs and in no way is useful as a reference to nonwestern iconology.
An "Index of Authors, Literary Texts, Composers, Filmmakers, and Folktales" includes such iconographic sources as Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, Ovid's Fasti and Metamorphoses, Shakespearean plays, and Wagnerian operas. One of the more extensive indexes lists the artists mentioned in the essays and the lists of "Selected Works of Art" that accompany each essay. Anonymous works of art as well as known artists are included.
The "Index of Other Names and Terms" concentrates on those names and topics that complement the themes of the essays but are not themselves mythological, religious, or literary entities included in the other indexes. The intent of this index is to concentrate on those terms and names with iconographic associations. Under "A," for example, the reader can find a list of objects, such as apple(s) or absinthe, that have been mentioned as bearing clues to the meaning of scenes, as well as concepts and activities (abyss and alchemy) that are themes with a whole panoply of iconographic import, but that could not be included in separate essays. The themes of the essays themselves are also included in this index so that a reader can find additional, related discussions. Also listed are persons whom the authors see as becoming icons because of the way an artist depicts them or because of the position they play in a cultural context. Genre terms (allegory) and artistic movements (abstract impressionism) are also included in this index.
A general reading list of reference books that cover the mythological, religious, or literary narratives are listed separately from the essays and can be used in connection with all the essays. In order to avoid duplication, the "Further Reading" that accompanies each essay includes only references relating to the particular theme under discussion and refers to works in the general bibliography only when particular citations are made.
Volume I Themes:
Abandonment by Helene E. Roberts Abduction Rape by Andrew Stephen Arbury Abundance by Liana De Girolami Cheney Adultery by Sarah S. Gibson Annunciation by Don Denny Apocalypse by Don Denny Apotheosis/Deification by Claire Lindgren Arms Raised by Dimitri Hazzikostas Artists/Art by Julie E Codell Ascent/Descent by Paul Grimley Kuntz and Lee Braver Automata by Karen Pinkus Avarice by Priscilla Baumann
Bacchanalia/Orgy by Sarah S. Gibson Baptism by Don Denny Bath/Bathing by Alicia Craig Faxon Beheading/Decapitation by Diane Apostolos-Cappadona Betrayal by Gina Strumwasser Birth/Childbirth by Beth S. GershNeiic
Calumny by Claire Lindgren Caricature/Cartoon by Margaret A. Sullivan Choice/Choosing by Elizabeth Powers Comic by Barry Wind Communion by Valerie (Hutchinson) Pennanen Crucifixion by Alicia Craig Faxon
Damned Souls by Alicia Craig Faxon and Nancy Frazier Dance/Dancers/Dancing by Alicia Craig Faxon DawnlDawning by Rudol(M. Bisanz Death by Elaine Shefer Destruction of City by Eugene Dwyer Devotion/Piety by Rudolf M. Bisanz Dreams/Visions by Elaine Shefer Drunkenness/Intoxication by Beth S. GershNeiic
Ecstasy by Valerie (Hutchinson) Pennanen Envy by Eugene Dwyer Evil Eye by Eugene Dwyer Excess by Eugene Dwyer Expulsion by Sarah S. Gibson and Paul Grimley Kuntz
Fame by Liana De Girolami Cheney Fatal Woman/Femme Fatale by Alicia Craig Faxon Female Beauty and Adornment by Elise Goodman Fools/Folly by Margaret A. Sullivan Fortune by Liana De Girolami Cheney, Paul Grimley Kuntz, and Lee Braver Funeral/Burial by Stephen Lamia
Gaze by Eugene Dwyer Grieving/Lamentation by Dimitri Hazzikostas
Hair/Haircutting by Alicia Craig Faxon Hanging by Janice McCullogb Harvesting by Brucia Wittboft Hermaphrodite/Androgyne by M. Ann Simmons Honor/Honoring by Liana De Girolami Cheney Humors by Zirka Zaremba Filipczak Hunting/Hunter/Huntress by Sarah S. Gibson
Imagination/Creativity by Liana De Girolarni Cheney
Journey/Flight by Sarah S. Gibson and Alicia Craig Faxon Judaism by Nancy Frazier judgment by Andrew Stephen Arbury justice by Gina Strumwasser
Kiss/Kissing by Alicia Craig Faxon
Labor/Trades/Occupations by Stephen Lamid Labyrinth/Maze by Priscilla Baumann Laughter by Andrew Stephen Arbury Light 1: The Lamp in the Niche by Erica Cruiksbank-Dodd Light 11: Divine, Natural, and Neon by Helene E. Roberts Logos/Word by Erica Cruikshank-Dodd Love and Death by Liana De Girolami Cheney Luxury by Eugene Dwyer
Madness by Fritz Laupicbler Margins/Outsiders by Priscilla Baumann Marriage/Betrothal by Brucia Wittboft Martyrdom by Alicia Craig Faxon Masks/Personae by Elaine Sbefer Melancholy by Corinne Mandel Metamorphosis by Alicia Craig Faxon Mirror/Reflection by Elaine Sbefer Misfortune by Fritz Laupicbler Money by Edward J. Nygren
Months by Shane Adler Music by Yona Pinson
Naked/Nude by Kathryn Moore Heleniak Night by Stephen Lamia Nightmare by Petra tenDoesscbate Chu
Offering by Erica CruiksbankDodd Order/Chaos by Paul Grimley Kuntz and Lee Braver
Path/Road/Crossroads by Christine M. Boeckl Patronage by Claire Lindgren Peace by Liana De Girolami Cheney Peasantry by Margaret A. Sullivan Penitence/Repentance by Christine M. Boeckl Physiognomy by Margaret A. Sullivan Plague/Pestilence by Christine M. Boeckl Pointing/Indicating by Fritz Laupicbler Pregnancy by Beth S. GersbNe§ic Protestantism by Christine M. Boeckl
Reading by Alicia Craig Faxon
Sacrifice by Alicia Craig Faxon Sanctuary by Claudia Hill Seasons by Shane Adler SelfPortraits 1: Men by Christine M. Boeckl SelfPortraits 11: Women by Fredrika Jacobs Serpent's Bite by Sarah S. Gibson Shepherds/Shepherdesses by Sarah S. Gibson Shipwreck by Alicia Craig Faxon Sin/Sinning by Christine M. Boeckl Sleep/Sleeping by Petra ten Doesschate Chu Sport by Karen Pinkus Sublime by David D. Nolta
Temptation by Alicia Craig Faxon Toilet Scenes by Diane Apostolos-Cappadona
Upside Down by Janice McCullogb
Vanity/Vanities by Liana De Girolami Cheney Vices/Deadly Sins by Liana De Girolami Cheney Virgin[Virginity by Diane Apostolos-Cappadona Virtue/Virtues by Liana De Girolami Cheney Visiting/Visitation by Alicia Craig Faxon Voyeurism by Eugene Dwyer
Whiteness by Shane Adler Widowhood by Karen Pinkus Witchcraft/Sorcery by Yona Pinson
Zodiac by Paul Grimley Kuntz
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