Forum

 

German History after the Visual Turn

September 2006

 

Introduction Initial Contributions Discussion Bibliography

 


Introduction:

In our continuing efforts to bridge the early modern/modern divide and to engage in historiographical debates of interest to our members, H-German would like to announce a Fall Forum on the topic of the visual turn. While the previous forum on transnationalism hinged on the concept of spatiality, this present discussion takes vision and viewing as its focus.

The emerging field of visual culture has been "posited as a symptom of, and as a response to, the image-based contemporary cultural landscape that, it is claimed, we now inhabit, and which in turn inhabits us."[1] The slew of anthologies and readers promising to provide an overview to the field are symptomatic of just how popular the visual has become.[2]

Because studies of the modern focus on the transient and superficial nature of experience, many scholars have embraced the visual as vital in distinguishing premodern forms of the Gemeinschaft from the spectacular and superficial encounters of the Gesellschaft. In this forum we would like to ask if there is indeed such a rupture in terms of experience and consider visual culture as an object of study (visuality) as well as a methodology -- as a way of looking at artifacts.

More broadly, we would like to use this forum as an opportunity to consider whether visual culture and analysis can be an object of historical research in its own right, rather than merely a technique borrowed from history or cultural studies.

As has become the practice for these forums, we have asked a group of scholars to make initial contributions (Lee Palmer Wandel [Wisconsin], Paul Betts [Sussex] and David Crew [UT-Austin]); these will be followed by solicited comments (Johannes von Moltke [Michgan] and Elizabeth Otto [Buffalo]).

David Crew considers recent work on photography, the Holocaust, and the Nazi state to explore how historians need to think about the possibilities and problems of certain types of representation; Lee Palmer Wandel's historiographic piece traces how visuality has become important in defining the field of early modern German history that transcends modern definitions of the nation state; and Paul Betts offers some general reflections on the coming of "visual culture" as a new wrinkle of culture history, with a particular view toward how the so-called visual turn may be useful to historians more generally.

After these more formal contributions, we welcome posts from you on the subject

 
We welcome any comments, criticism, or suggestions you may have and look forward to a productive exchange.

Susan Boettcher
Eve Duffy
Christopher Fischer
Will Gray
David Imhoof
Paul Steege
H-German Editors

 

Notes
[1. ] Andrea Noble, "Visual Culture and Latin American Studies," CR: The New Centennial Review (2004): p. 219. (back)
 
[2. ] John A. Walker and Sarah Chaplin, Visual Culture: An Introduction (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1997); Nicholas Mirzoeff, The Visual Culture Reader (London: Routledge, 1998); Marita Sturken and Lisa Cartwright, Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001); Barnard Malcolm, Approaches to Understanding Visual Culture (New York: Palgrave, 2001); Richard Howells, Visual Culture (Cambridge: Polity, 2003); Vanessa R. Schwartz and Jeannene M. Przyblyski, The Nineteenth-Century Visual Culture Reader (London: Routledge, 2004); the founding of new publications also point to the emergence of a new field: the Journal of Visual Studies, Visual Studies, and Visual Communication. (back)

 


Initial Contributions

Solicited Responses


Discussion

 
       
 
 
       
 
 
       
       
 

Supplemental bibliography

 
 

Mieke Bal, "Visual Essentialism and the Object of Visual Culture," Journal of Visual Culture 2 (2003): pp. 5-32.

Michael Baxandall, The Limewood Sculptors of Renaissance Germany, 1475-1525 : images and circumstances (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1980).

Teresa Brennan and Martin Jay, eds. Vision in Context: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives on Sight (New York: Routledge, 1996).

Susan Buck-Morss, The Dialectics of Seeing: Walter Benjamin and the Arcades Project (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1991).

Peter Burke, Eyewitnessing: The Uses of Images as Historical Evidence (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2001).

Jonathan Crary, Techniques of the Observer: On Vision and Modernity in the Nineteenth Century (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1990).

David Freedberg, The Power of Images. Studies in the History and Theory of Response (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1989).

Richard Howells, Visual Culture (Cambridge: Polity, 2003).

Martin Jay, Downcast Eyes. The Denigration of Vision in Twentieth-Century French Thought (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993).

Barnard Malcolm, Approaches to Understanding Visual Culture (New York: Palgrave, 2001).

Nicholas Mirzoeff, The Visual Culture Reader (London: Routledge, 1998).

W. J. T. Mitchell, "Interdisciplinarity and Visual Culture," Art Bulletin 77 (December 1995): pp. 540-544.

Robert W. Scribner, For the sake of simple folk: popular propaganda for the German Reformation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981; Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994).

Vanessa R. Schwartz and Jeannene M. Przyblyski, The Nineteenth-Century Visual Culture Reader (London: Routledge, 2004);

Marita Sturken and Lisa Cartwright, Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001).

John A. Walker and Sarah Chaplin, Visual Culture: An Introduction (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1997).

Janet Ward, Weimar Surfaces: Urban Visual Culture in 1920s Germany (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001).

Barbie Zelizer, ed., Visual Culture and the Holocaust (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2001).
 

 

Return to H-German homepage