Downcast Eyes: The Denigration of Vision in by Martin Jay

By Martin Jay

Lengthy thought of "the noblest of the senses," imaginative and prescient has more and more come lower than serious scrutiny through a variety of thinkers who query its dominance in Western tradition. those critics of imaginative and prescient, particularly sought after in twentieth-century France, have challenged its allegedly enhanced skill to supply entry to the realm. they've got additionally criticized its meant complicity with political and social oppression in the course of the promulgation of spectacle and surveillance.

Martin Jay turns to this discourse surrounding imaginative and prescient and explores its usually contradictory implications within the paintings of such influential figures as Jean-Paul Sartre, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Michel Foucault, Jacques Lacan, Louis Althusser, man Debord, Luce Irigaray, Emmanuel Levinas, and Jacques Derrida. Jay starts with a dialogue of the speculation of imaginative and prescient from Plato to Descartes, then considers its position within the French Enlightenment earlier than turning to its prestige within the tradition of modernity. From attention of French Impressionism to research of Georges Bataille and the Surrealists, Roland Barthes's writings on images, and the movie idea of Christian Metz, Jay offers lucid and fair-minded debts of thinkers and concepts well known for his or her difficulty.

His e-book examines the myriad hyperlinks among the interrogation of imaginative and prescient and the pervasive antihumanist, antimodernist, and counter-enlightenment tenor of a lot fresh French idea. Refusing, notwithstanding, to guard the dominant visible order, he calls as an alternative for a plurality of "scopic regimes." absolute to generate controversy and dialogue through the humanities and social sciences, Downcast Eyes will consolidate Jay's recognition as considered one of today's prime cultural and highbrow historians.

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395). The perspectivists, it should be noted, included figures like Roger Bacon, John Peacham, and Witelo; only later did the term come to mean the Albertian model of vision rather than optics per se. 58. Steven Louis Goldman, "On the Interpretation of Symbols and the Christian Origins of Modern Science," The Journal ofReligion, 62,1 (January, 1982). He explicitly contrasts medieval Christian attitudes with those of Jewish thinkers of the period, who subordinated the visual imagination to discursive reasoning.

THE NOBLEST OF THE SENSES 35 There is much to be said for emphasizing the ocularcentrism of modern Europe, although, as we will see, not for homogenizing its manifestations. It would be a mistake, however, to contrast it too rigidly to an ocularphobic Middle Ages. For medieval Christian culture was not as hostile to the eye as Febvre and Mandrou-on rather thin evidence-suggest. Its Hellenic and Hebraic impulses, if we want to stay with that typology, were often in an uneasy balance. One of the major differences between Judaism and Christianity, after all, was the latter's faith in the corporeal incarnation of the divine in human form, which meant that the Mosaic taboo against graven images could easily be called into question.

For a suggestive interpretation of their significance, see Hartmut Bohme, "Sinne une Blick. Variationen zur mythopoetischen Geschichte des Subjekts," in Konkursbuch, vol. 13 (Tiibingen, 1984). 29. For a suggestive analysis of the implications of this struggle, see Michel Serres, "Panoptic Theory," in The Limits o/Theory, ed. Thomas M. Kavanagh (Stanford, Calif, 1989). 30. For a discussion of Greek apotropaic reactions to the evil eye, see Albert M. , 1982), chap. 4. 28 THE NOBLEST OF THE SENSES culture.

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