Iconic Turn: A Plea for Three Turns of the Screw

Emmanuel Alloa
University of Fribourg
In the early 1990s, W.J.T. Mitchell and Gottfried Boehm independently proclaimed that the humanities were witnessing a ‘pictorial’ or ‘iconic turn’. Twenty years later, we may wonder whether this announcement was describing an event that had already taken place or whether it was rather calling forth for it to happen. The contemporary world is, more than ever, determined by visual artefacts. Still, our conceptual arsenal, forged during centuries of logocentrism, still falls behind the complexity of pictorial meaning. The essay has two parts. In the first, it tries to assess the exact meaning of the ‘pictorial’/’iconic turn’, and (re)places it into the context of Anglo-American visual studies and German Bildwissenschaften. It the second, it addresses the famous claim by the philologist Ernst Robert Curtius that ‘image sciences are easy’ by advocating for three ‘turns of the screw’ to make visual studies more difficult: a shift from iconology to symptomatology, a shift from extensive to intensive and a shift from the indicative to the subjunctive.
Keywords Aesthetics  Pictoriality  Visual Studies  Image  depiction  iconology
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Could Perspective Ever Be a Symbolic Form? Revisiting Panofsky with Cassirer.Emmanuel Alloa - 2015 - Journal of Aesthetics and Phenomenology 2 (1):51-72.

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