Introduction: Visuality's Romantic Genealogies

Introduction: Visuality’s Romantic Genealogies

Theresa M. Kelley
University of Wisconsin-Madison

1.        The five essays gathered in this Praxis volume, together with exhibits in the new Romantic Circles Gallery, including two developed by Lucy Kimko Traverse and Matthew Rarey, whose essays also appear in this volume, recognize what we have come to understand as the wide cultural reach of romantic visualities, as manifold and often divergent impulses that join the cultural moment of romanticism to our own. This introduction, these five essays, and the new Gallery exhibits, together convey how we have begun to understand romanticism’s visual cultures, and gesture toward work that awaits future contributors who seek to understand how visuality conducts its operations across romantic culture.

i. Romanticism’s Emergent Counter-Visualities

2.        Visuality, we might say, is not merely a feature of the contemporary. Nor does it reduce to the visible or the social facts of the visible. As Nicholas Mirzoeff elaborates in The Right to Look: A Counterhistory of Visuality (2011), the descriptive force of the very term emerges importantly not just with contemporary critical theory. [1]  Its history stretches back before its key turning point use, in Hal Foster’s edited collection Vision and Visuality (1988), to insist on the constitutive interlining of vision by the changing “social fact” of visuality, that is, to understand vision as riven by differences. [2]  This apparently modish critical neologism that initiated a reckoning with vision as historically and culturally embedded has its own histories and counter-histories. [3]  It enters official English in the writings of historian Thomas Carlyle to characterize a tradition of heroic leadership and its claimed capacities for visualization from the literal battlefield to the terrain of history writing, from the political to the aesthetic. [4]  It is a term for the seemingly “ineluctable” force of strategies of visualization that undergird autocratic authority, making it appear natural and inevitable. [5]  In his homage to the “Hero,” Carlyle’s prime example of the political capacity of “clear visuality” to render an authoritarian, great-man version of history with gripping and yet naturalizing intensity is Dante’s Divine Comedy in which: “every compartment of it is worked out, with intense earnestness, into truth, into clear visuality.” [6] 

3.        To mark this late romantic site as the first modern use of the term “visuality” is not merely to argue that visuality as a modality of power (from the oversight of the slave plantation complex through imperialism and its division of the sensible to the sense of visuality as war) has a history. It is also to find a pivot point around which to re-narrate the emergence of counter-visualities, important historical instances of the contestatory claim to the “right to look” (beginning, one may argue, with slave revolts in the Caribbean that led to the Haitian revolution and extending, one might imply, to there being something “queer”—a term for the off-center with its own nineteenth-century etymologies— about the appropriation of rights and rites of inspection by those who are held to be its discriminated objects). [7]  This volume participates in the excavation of the romantic genealogies of visuality and its contestations in practice while also attending to other imminent possibilities within a reconfigured field of romanticism, one opened and stretched geographically, temporally, and beyond the bounds of the disciplinary division of objects. That is, besides the important claiming of the right to look, this volume also considers counterpoints that texture and complicate the story of visuality’s emergence. Such a reconfiguration brings newly into view not merely a different array of “objects” of and for romanticism but also reposes the question of their ethical, political, and aesthetic stakes in the past as well as for our present.

4.        Two decades ago it was still possible to suppose that romanticism referred wholly to visionary experience and poetics and that its locus was squarely in the European metropole. The point of William Galperin’s The Return of the Visible in British Romanticism (1988) was not to suggest that the visible had ever left town (and here he means London), but that its presence in romantic culture had hardly been noticed. As Galperin did note, however, it was precisely because the aesthetic representation of the visible took so many forms and commanded so much public attention that Coleridge felt he had to warn against the “despotism of the eye” and Wordsworth had to insist that he had never been “infected” by the rage for the picturesque. [8]  These gestures we now recognize as defensive maneuvers against a complex global Romantic culture that was at once very visual, spectacularly so, and very public. That is, we can understand these gestures as part of the internal roilings within dominant modalities of romantic visuality and its critique of what has more recently been called “ocularcentrism.” [9] 

5.        The essays in this volume approach the question of visuality’s romantic genealogies by addressing an arresting affiliation between interiority and invisibility and the highly visual, spectacular romanticism that we now recognize as a persistent element in romantic culture. The thread that binds and weaves between these romanticisms is a shadowed recognition of an “other” that visuality seeks to control, but which may also be implicit or occulted. What makes romantic visuality compelling is, we contend, not a sudden departure from a line of objectivist thinking about vision, but the continuing modern exploration of the suppositionality of vision, combined with deepening recognition of the difficulty of conveying the remarkable and remarkably resistant character of the physical world and the precarious desire of the European observer who seeks to manage that world as though separated from it. In romantic visuality what is spectral, half seen at the edges of vision and understanding, or invisible, presses on the technologies of the visible and in the global encounter with others that shadows so much of romantic culture.

6.        The spectral otherness of romantic visuality is difficult to put aside precisely because it operates so close to the bone of scientific visuality and a metropolitan European culture keen for news and images from the global wars that the English and their European counterparts waged. [10]  Romantic visuality’s odd and estranged relation to what is hidden or desired lurks at the edges of the visual frame. The complex refracted relation between the visible and its others sets the stage, at once philosophical and cultural, for a surprising but compelling affiliation between this visibility and the romantic critique of ocularcentrism. If the geneaology of the critique of embodiment and vision begins millenia earlier in the debate about seeing and the imagination that Plato, Aristotle and Augustine begin and Locke extends, its romantic instantiation includes Hegel’s critique of sense certainty, especially vision, a critique complexly entwined with his use of visual metaphor to characterize the liabilities of phenomenal vision understood as the ground of knowledge. Hegel’s critique specifically registers the problem of the “other” for the metropolitan European Enlightenment subject. [11]  For Hegel, visionary possibilities, even if we reject them, train the mind to look beyond empirical sight, in much the way that, we suggest, romantic experiments with the “otherness” of visibility invited seeing otherwise. The wider romantic address to the “other” involves Hegel’s dance with spectral “phenomena,” and much more: new techniques for manipulating the real and the appearance of the real; and many reasons for hiding or obscuring what might be seen, among them that indicated by the dark side of the Abbé Raynal’s Les deux indes: the global reality of slavery and other instrumentalizations of the human. [12] 

ii. Technologies of vision and objectivity’s slippages

7.        If scientists and their illustrators imagined objectivity as an empirical and verifiable standard of representation, achieving objectivity was also a difficult project in practice. [13]  Among those for whom emerging standards of scientific and ocular objectivity were important, botanical illustrators toggled between their putative object of study, the specimen, and the work of other illustrators. This odd arrangement was in part motivated by the taxonomic inquiry that such images were supposed to illustrate: the plant depicted had to convey the taxonomic traits or “character” of its species. [14]  Artists copied other artists to get as close as possible to a full and accurate species image but perhaps also to save time as they competed in a hotly competitive market for botanical illustration. Fidelity to the established system for identifying and naming the species in question set its own formal terms: artists who drew or engraved plants for Linnaean botanists were expected to depict its floral parts in detail, typically in separate, schematic drawings on the same sheet or plate.

8.        The force of formal constraint as its own technique for attaining the appearance of “scientific” objectivity may be traced in the collaboration on the publication of English Botany between Sir J. E. Smith, first president of the Linnean Society of London, and James Sowerby, one of the principle artists and engravers of works on natural history. From 1790 to 1814 the two corresponded regularly about drawings and descriptions for their first collaborative project, the thirty-six volumes of English Botany. To indicate a set of distinctions between two closely related species that an initial drawing failed to offer, Smith explained to Sowerby what the leaves of the species under consideration looked like under magnification so that the drawing might be altered to reflect this information; he also directed Sowerby’s application of color, noting in some cases that holding up a plant to the light or even adding water to the specimen to make it look bigger will show its “true color.” If magnification by microscope or adding water does not quite approach the scalar excess of the huge flowers depicted in Robert Thornton’s The Temple of Flora, neither is it a straightforward brief for copying the plant specimen at hand. Instead, magnification and other alterations with light and water functioned as techniques for making specimens yield up the effects of the “true” unavailable to naked observation from the “life” and yet claimed to be merely inherent. [15] 

9.        We might say that technologies of vision for the production of “objectivity” were internally given the slip by the very devices of scalar alteration on which they depended. Technologies devised to assist the creation of accurate, putatively objective records become inevitably entwined with the reversibility of their operations of attentive particular focus (a kind of miniaturization) and magnification. The use of microscopes to magnify plant cells, as Franz Bauer did at Kew from 1800 on, suggest one side of the scalar extremes that bind diverse forms of romantic visibility, from miniature images and writing to scalar exaggerations and tricks used in the eidofusikon and the panorama. Such devices slide easily between what might be called a recognizably human scale and its various others: forms so small or so obscure they cannot be seen (or imagined) without visual amplification (or suggestion). Wordsworth’s presentation of London shop signs in the Prelude, Book 7, insist both that the slippage at issue is between the human and something extra-human and that this slippage is pitched toward the consuming subject:

The comers and the goers face to face—
Face after face—the string of dazzling wares,
Shop after shop, with symbols, blazoned names,
And all the tradesman’s honours overhead:
Here, fronts of houses, like a title-page
With letters huge inscribed from top to toe;
Stationed above the door, like guardian saints,
There, allegoric shapes, female or male,
Or physiognomies of real men,
Land-warriors, kings, or admirals of the sea,
Boyle, Shakespeare, Newton, or the attractive head
Of some Scotch doctor, famous in his day.

10.        Sophie Thomas’s essay in this volume, “Representing Paris: History and Actuality at the London Panoramas” considers the romantic panorama, perhaps the most extravagant of romanticism’s visual spectacles, by emphasizing its claims to represent reality in an all encompassing visual form, albeit one we now experience via textual remainders such as maps and descriptions, that appears to have found its métier in the presentation of wartime episodes. Not incidentally, as Thomas makes clear, the goal of representing history, particularly recent history, as fact was crosscut by two counter-impulses: the need to adapt facts to national and propagandistic protocols and the use of illusion and disorienting complexity to insist on the thick actuality of the spectacle. Whether it was London and the English as seen in Parisian panoramas, or Paris and the French as seen in London panoramas, war and specific battle scenes were popular and for that reason repeatedly made into panoramas that staged what Mary Favret has called “war at a distance,” to characterize how most romantic audiences experienced the ongoingness of war in their time and as such gesture toward our modern experience of war as news and propaganda. Premier among those staged spectacles in its use of effects to promote the illusion of its factuality, the panorama works in part by confusing its viewers with details, prompting both euphoria and a disorienting view of its staged reality. The double project of the panorama is arresting: designed to give viewers a sense of observational control and sovereignty over a huge city that, were the viewer down below, would be a place in which to get lost, or a battle scene in which being there might well mean ending up being dead, the complexity of visual, even geometric tactics used to persuade the viewer of the panorama as a multifaceted reality might also be profoundly disorienting. Writ large and small (this perspectival extreme being the stock and trade of a panoramic prospect), the panorama might take away whatever powers it promised to give.

11.        The reversibility of the techniques of objectivity and the degree to which metropolitan European romantic and imperial visuality was internally challenged by its own techniques of panoramic all-seeing, assemblage, and atomizing classification help to specify location and origin of Romantic visuality as less exclusively a European phenomenon than one shadowed by its putative “others” and, as such, an unstable site where unruly and global force challenge British and European metroples.

iii. Indigenous or Transplanted Fruits: Visuality’s New World Genealogies

12.        Visuality, we might say, not only has a romantic genealogy but a New World one. In Imperial Eyes, Mary Louise Pratt suggests how we might recast romantic ways of seeing as an accidental and infectious byproduct of colonial contacts. Gesturing briefly to Venezuelan writer Teresa de la Parra’s autobiographical novel Memories of White Mother (1929), Pratt gives us a glimpse via Parra of an alternative historical itinerary for romanticism and its celebrated lyric “I,” an eye that tracks what Hegel insisted the ego-subject always misses about its interpellation with the world and its putative “others”:

I believe that like tobacco, pineapple, and sugar cane, Romanticism was an indigenous [American] fruit that grew up sweet, spontaneous and hidden among colonial langours and tropical indolence until the end of the eighteenth century. Around that time, Josefina Tascher, unsuspectingly, as if she were an ideal microbe, carried it off tangled up in the lace of one of her headdresses, gave the germ to Napoleon in that acute form which we all know, and little by little, the troops of the first Empire, assisted by Chateaubriand, spread the epidemic everywhere.
 [17]  Situated in a new world garden beside tobacco and pineapple and, most notably, with the sugar cane, that exotic transplant of colonial landscaping or the plantation machine, Romanticism becomes, like the introduced and capitalized sugarcane plant, an “indigenous fruit” of the Americas. Memories of White Mother figures romanticism in the formal and yet also material terms of one of its preoccupations: fusions with the environment and its extension in the anthropomorphization of plants. An acclimitizable and yet transculturating fruit, romanticism becomes, like the changes wrought by the sugarcane plantation, an outbreak that, in its attempted conversion of slave labor and colonial commerce into the comestible sweets of sugar, fruit, the aesthetic, or transformative empathy, also sends infectious counter-influence across the Atlantic from the Americas to Europe. This characterization of romanticism as an unsuspected and seductively transforming germination without an original seeing/knowing agent is further mobilized by Pratt to suggest that “If one unhooks [Alexander von] Humboldt from Schiller and locates him in another ‘romantic’ line—George Forster and Bernardin de Saint Pierre (two of Humboldt’s personal idols), Volney, Chateaubriand, Stedman, Buffon, Le Vaillant, Captain Hook, and the Diderot of the ‘Supplement to the Voyage of Bougainville’—one might be tempted to argue that romanticism originated in the contact zones of America, North America, and the South Seas.”

13.        This change of direction is not without consequence. The cultivation of the eye as a means of developing sensibility becomes embedded with material forms of “cultivation.” But, further, the cultivation of an empathic visual imagination becomes part and parcel with the actual and imaginative appropriation of “domestic” and “foreign” lands: practices so often translated as arts not of conquest but of “cultivation.” While the full reaches of such an itinerary that rereads the graphic, literary, scientific, and philosophical developments of European romanticism along the trade routes, exploratory paths, detours, and wanderlust of global trade and colonization is beyond the scope of this volume, the essays in this collection variously resituate European and especially British works of the late eighteenth to mid-nineteenth century as troubled and troubling contact zones of encounters in various registers (importantly including not the inflated heroic sublime but the curious, the wandering, the grotesque, the ridiculous, and the bitingly satirical) shaped by and giving form to the mixed and heterogenous intra- and extra-national, imperial, and continental arenas we now call “Britain,” “British Empire,” the “Americas,” and “Europe.”

14.        Marcus Wood’s “Brazilian Romantic Satire on the Peripheries of Photo-Realism: the Case of Angelo Agostini” takes up the abolitionist satires of Angelo Agostini (the Italian artist who was working in Rio from the early 1860s until the end of the 1880s) to argue not merely for the extent to which Brazilian abolitionist satires were in important dialogue with English and American Romantic literatures and images but also, moreover, that, while an outgrowth of European metropolitan traditions of graphic satire, there something particularly and brazenly “Brazilian” about the deployment of even putatively the same figures (the New World crocodile, for example). As Wood describes, Agostini worked stone lithography mainly for mainstream illustrated periodicals, producing social and political satiric art across a wide range of issues (concentrating more heavily on slavery in the 1870s and 80s) in the metropolitan center of Rio de Janeiro, a new world of industrialized capital in which slave labour existed hand in hand with the development of new technologies including gas light and steam power. The essay’s detailed examination of some of Agostini’s especially ambitious prints opens up a space in which to initiate understanding of the specific qualities which define Brazilian Romantic graphic art. As Wood demonstrates through close reading, these distinctive qualities are tied inextricably to the graphic exploration of the visuality of a slave system that transitions to abolition or what happens when you let go of a repressed power founded ultimately in literal physical bondage, and in the terror of enforced restraint? The crocodile that marks the Brazilian specificity of these satires is also the thought-image for the violent extremities of a post-Emancipation world. But this is not an argument for Brazil’s modern nature to Europe’s culture of modernity. Rather, turning to Agostini’s political lithographs produced for O Mequetrefe, Wood argues for the appropriation or translation of an unsettling “realism,” a kind of effect of “objective visual energy” that could be harnessed for disruptive satiric ends. Photography meets lithography in Post-Emancipation Brazil and the graphic effects unleash possibilities for a counter-visuality of Romanticism that is bitingly real.

15.        Extending romanticism’s new world genealogies to explore the potentials of a Romantic Atlantic may be seen in Matthew Rarey’s essay “Romantic Visualities, Technologies, and Travelers in Mexico, 1804–1844.” Rarey’s particular assemblage of case studies of work by explorers and travelers whose images of Mexico circulated on both sides of the Atlantic presents the views articulated in antiquarian Mexican travel narratives in the first half of the nineteenth century as navigations of a fine line between the demands of an objective scientific rationality and those of picturesque scene-making that demonstrate the shaping role of nascent visual technologies – the camera lucida, the panorama, and the daguerreotype. This geographic and cultural reframing to consider representations of Mexico, thus, cuts across segregated media histories, allowing us to see a network which includes the views produced by Pedro José Márquez, a Mexican Jesuit priest working in Rome in 1804, their publication by the German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt in Paris in 1816, and the views of Mexico in the camera lucida as they emerged in the hands of Scottish artist and architect Frederick Catherwood in the Mediterranean and Mexico (with the support of English entrepreneur Robert Burford). As Rarey develops, this network of image-making connects Burford’s panoramas (discussed by Sophie Thomas as major attractions in London) that relied on Catherwood’s camera lucida-aided drawings as prototypes for panoramic images to the resistant difficulties of using the camera lucida and the new daguerreotype technology in explorations of the Yucatán. While the technologies of the camera lucida and the daguerreotype promised to render an objective visual account of Mexican antiquities and landscape, they emerge as stubborn, defiant apparati and powerful agents in complex and often surprising circuits of intellectual, artistic, and technological exchanges, forming and transforming the romantic Atlantic and the Mediterranean.

iv. Proto-Photography, Panopticism, Slavery: Visuality’s Romantic Beginnings and its Ghosts

16.        If the ground of the plantation is entangled with the picturesque garden, the locodescriptive poem and the optical devices for picturesque tourism that focused and enframed the vistas of the so-called New World, and romanticism is a germination of transplanted seeds, visuality as visibility’s imbrication with formations of social power may also be said to emerge with the modernity of colonial technologies of subject formation: the panopticon, gas light, stereotypy (and printing of many kinds) and the beginnings of photography. Visuality is never simply the body (whether plant, animal, human or its crossings) visualized. Despite the dream of truth’s emergence as total optical clarity, what may be propped along the sight lines of the panopticon, illuminated by gaslight, enframed by the modern romantic resuscitations of easel painting, and registered by the aid of the camera (and the camera lucida) always has its haunting remainders.

17.        In “Turner’s Slavers, Race, and the Ridiculous Human Fragment,” Dian Kriz exposes a telling rift between the aesthetic and the visual politics of race in her trenchant reading of J. M. W. Turner’s 1840 painting, The Slave Ship, or Slavers throwing Slaves overboard. As other recent analyses do not, Kriz questions the effort to assign the visual rhetoric of this painting to the romantic sublime, arguing instead that, as its early commentators repeatedly noted, Turner’s canvas belongs to another register in which exaggeration operates—the grotesque and ridiculous. What early reviews identified—the wildly flailing arms and hands of the drowning slaves and the huge mouths of fishes ready to consume them—signals a romantic theorizing of race and blackness as ridiculous, excessive, a domain in which disembodied hands and feet constitute the fragmented non-being of the slave body. Kriz argues here for understanding the racism in romantic aesthetics by reading the visual representations of race frontally, rather than allowing the sentimentality on offer in some romantic depictions of slave bodies to encourage turning away from the fragmented, abused body of romantic-era slavery. What Turner stages, Kriz argues, is a profoundly disturbing representation of race and slavery from the vantage point of its European romantic “others.”

18.        In “Unsanctioned Wandering: Capturing the Vagrant in Romantic Prints,” Lucy Traverse traces the doubled figure of the vagrant, a figure of fugitive movement that is at once the rogue body at the edges of the law and the paradigm of romantic movement and thought and the ideal representative of the liberal metropolitan subject. Attending closely to a representative array of British romantic prints bound in a range of books published in London in the first two decades of the nineteenth century (between 1800-1820), Traverse sketches the strategies of containment, appropriation, and erasure used to capture the vagrant body in print, teasing out the tensions and slippages between the text as material object and the roaming body it seeks to arrest. As Traverse demonstrates through this paradoxical and precarious figure, while wandering may be integral to romantic thought and action, so too is the desire to capture, record and classify. The romantic obsession with the vagrant produces prints of wandering types that not only hover between mobility and stasis, but also present the very figures of highly prized movement immobilized. Indeed, the figure of unsanctioned wandering is also a paradigm of the collection organized around a verb which its strategies cannot capture without converting into its opposite. Here the objective vision that classifies relies on alterations in scale (miniaturization) and minimization that result in a decontextualization, a poaching of the ground on which to move. But, as Traverse also shows, these strategies are precarious at best in that the bodies they attempt to still also subtly critique the texts they occupy—at times leaking out and exceeding their print confines. There are larger issues at stake not least being the question of the relation of a liberalism that represents itself through movement and the techniques of the panoptic encyclopedic project and its archiving and encyclopedic assemblage of types in ways that endeavor to contain and yet also strive to mimic the movements of their subjects.

19.        Unsanctioned wandering—in and out of dominant panoptic visuality—may give us a metaphor for the practice of tracing alternative genealogies of visuality and doing so critically. Read together the essays in this volume give us a different account of modernity, its languages and its technologies. In Mirzoeff’s “Ghostwriting: Working out Visual Culture,” 1822 is the turning point moment when the Arcades of Paris were illuminated by gaslight, giving us a vivid critical figure or thought-image for the condition of being a subject in colonial modernity in the form of not just the camera but an emerging disciplinary society of luminous consumption. “Here is a critical mix indeed,” Mirzoeff writes, “the panoptic institution illuminated by new visual technologies of gas and electricity, yet haunted by spirits and…ghosts.”  [18]  Gaslight illuminated the shops of Rio as well as the arcades of Paris and the wake of global slavery and capitalism continues to cast its shadows. Such shadows, ghosts and excesses are, in important part, the animating “subjects” of the essays in this volume. But we would insist that attention to the fossil impressions and fugitive traces in and of the images in existing archives, together with what is not pictured or represented are both objects of our inquiry and, at least as critically, a necessary part of the method implied by attending to and thinking “visuality” and its genealogies.

21.        As the new Romantic Circles Gallery reminds us, visuality is more than a set of images or an iconography or a topic or a theme. At its most critical and prescient moments, visuality allows us to revisit and rethink the history of the regimes within which we live and the questions and problems posed by the legacy of efforts to work out power, pleasure, and knowledge through the register of the visible, both its failures and remainders. The essays in this volume, together with the exhibits already part of the new Gallery and future exhibits, will assist our effort to know how it is that Romantics saw and embodied what they saw or imagined, and how we in turn understand the knowledge power performed or undermined by romantic visuality.

Works Cited

Buck-Morss, Susan. Hegel, Haiti, and Universal History. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2009. Print.

Carlyle, Thomas. “Lecture III.” On Heroes, Hero Worship, and the Heroic in History. In The Norman and Charlotte Strouse Edition of the Writings of Thomas Carlyle. Ed. Michael K. Goldberg. Vol. 2. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993. Print.

Daston, Lorraine, and Peter Galison. Objectivity. New York: Zone Books, 2007. Print.

Derrida, Jacques. Right of Inspection. With Photographs by Marie-Françoise Plissart. Trans. David Wills. New York: Monacelli, 1998. Print.

Favret, Mary A. War at a Distance: Romanticism and the Making of Modern Wartime. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009. Print.

Foster, Hal, ed. Vision and Visuality. Seattle: Bay Press, 1988. Print.

Galperin, William H. The Return of the Visible in British Romanticism. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993. Print.

Houlgate, Stephen. “Vision, Reflection, and Openness: The ‘Hegemony of Vision’ from a Hegelian Point of View.” In Modernity and the Hegemony of Vision. Ed. David Michael Levin. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993. 87–123. Print.

Jay, Martin. Downcast Eyes: The Denigration of Vision in Twentieth-Century French Thought. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994. Print.

22.        Kelley, Theresa M. Clandestine Marriage: Botany and Romantic Culture. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012. 72-73. Print.

Mirzoeff, Nicholas. “Ghostwriting: Working Out Visual Culture.” Journal of Visual Culture 1.2 (2002): 240. Print.

---. “On Visuality.” Journal of Visual Culture 5.1 (2006): 53–80. Print.

---. The Right to Look: A Counterhistory of Visuality. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011. Print.

Nickelson, Kärin. Draughtsmen, Botanists and Nature: The Construction of Eighteenth-Century Botanical Illustrations. Dordrecht: Springer, 2006. Print.

De la Parra, Teresa. Memorias de Mama Blanca (1929). In Obras Completas. Caracas: Biblioteca Ayacucho, 1982. Print.

Plissart, Marie-Françoise. Droit de regards, suivi d’une lecture de Jacques Derrida. Paris: Éditions de Minuit, 1985. Print.

Pratt, Mary Louise. Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation. New York: Routledge, 1992. Print.

Raynal, Guillaume Thomas François, Abbé. L’Histoire philosophique et politique des établissements et du commerce des Européens dans les deux Indes. [L’Histoire des deux Indes.] 5th ed. 7 vols. Maestricht: Jean-Edme Dufour & P. Roux, 1777.

Smith, J. E., and James Sowerby. English Botany, or, Coloured Pictures of British Plants. 36 vols. London: J. Davis, 1790–1814.

Thornton, Robert. Temple of Flora. London: R. Thornton, 1799–1807.

23.        Turner, Joseph Mallord William. Slave Ship (Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying, Typhoon Coming On). Ca.1840. Oil on canvas. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

24.        Wordsworth, William. The Prelude, 1799, 1805, 1850. Ed. Jonathan Wordsworth, M. H. Abrams, and Stephen Gill. New York: W. W. Norton, 1979. 234. Print.


[1] Nicholas Mirzoeff, The Right to Look: A Counterhistory of Visuality (Durham: Duke University Press, 2011), xiii-xvi and 1-34. BACK

[2] Hal Foster, ed. Vision and Visuality (Seattle: Bay Press, 1988). For his analysis of the ways in which visuality has been used in the development of the transdisciplinary field of visual culture but also historically, see Nicholas Mirzoeff, “On Visuality,” Journal of Visual Culture 5.1 (April 2006): 53–80. BACK

[3] See The Right to Look, xiii-xvi and “On Visuality.” BACK

[4] Mirzoeff relates Carlyle’s construction of the “living light” of the near mystical figure of the statesman-poet drawn in “On Heroes” (and the aesthetic translation of authority as “light”) to the images and ideas of warfare as practiced and theorized by Karl von Clausewitz. See The Right to Look, 3. BACK

[5] As Mirzoeff tactically demonstrates, “the ineluctable modality of the ineluctable visuality” comes to us from critique within modernity and its grappling with the legacies of early modern metaphysics, that is, from James Joyce’s Ulysses. See Mirzoeff, xiii. BACK

[6] Thomas Carlyle, “Lecture III” in On Heroes, Hero Worship, and the Heroic in History (1841). Volume 2 of The Norman and Charlotte Strouse Edition of the Writings of Thomas Carlyle, ed. Michael K. Goldberg (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), 79. BACK

[7] The phrase “the right to look” comes from Jacques Derrida’s coinage of the phrase “droit de regards” to account for the exchange of the mutually genitive and yet gaming exchange of glancing looks between women lovers in Marie-Françoise Plissart’s book-length photo-essay to which Derrida wrote a “following” lecture. Given the oscillation of “droit” between law and right and the question of the plural “regards” which would most readily translate as “looks” but is also an important play on “au regard de la loi” (or “in the eyes of the law”), there remains appropriately a remainder, an irreducible problem of translation. “Droit de regards” is translated in the English version of the text by David Wills as “right of inspection.” Deploying “the right to look” as a claim for autonomy, political subjectivity and collectivity without the demand for sameness, Mirzoeff insists, instead, on the “right to look” as a way to keep open the gap between law and right which might seem closed by the term “inspection.” See Marie-Françoise Plissart, Droit de regards, suivi d’une lecture de Jacques Derrida (Paris: Éditions de Minuit, 1985) and Jacques Derrida, Right of Inspection, trans. David Wills with photographs by Marie-Françoise Plissart (New York: Monacelli, 1998). BACK

[8] William H. Galperin, The Return of the Visible in British Romanticism (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993). BACK

[9] See, in particular, Martin Jay, Downcast Eyes: The Denigration of Vision in Twentieth-Century French Thought (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994). BACK

[10] Mary A. Favret, War at a Distance: Romanticism and the Making of Modern Wartime (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009). BACK

[11] See, in particular, Stephen Houlgate, “Vision, Reflection, and Openness: The ‘Hegemony of Vision’ from a Hegelian Point of View,” in Modernity and the Hegemony of Vision, ed. David Michael Levin (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), 87–123. BACK

[12] See especially Susan Buck-Morss, Hegel, Haiti, and Universal History (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2009). BACK

[13] Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison, Objectivity (New York: Zone Books, 2007). BACK

[14] Kärin Nickelson, Draughstmen, Botanists and Nature: The Construction of Eighteenth-Century Botanical Illustrations (Dordrecht: Springer, 2006), 188-215. BACK

[15] Kelley, Clandestine Marriage: Botany and Romantic Culture (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012), 72-73. The practice of augmenting specimens prior to sketching them was widely asserted even by those who claimed that such illustration should faithfully record the specimen at hand. What obviously troubled this protocol, and thus prompted the contradiction, was the fact that while specimens might well convey parts more clearly (and were chosen because they did so), they quickly became a “hortus siccus,” to use Mrs. Delany’s acute phrase, with little resemblance to the vital plant. The instance we refer to here occurs in J. E. Smith to James Sowerby, Sowerby Correspondence, Boxes 19 and 20, A56 through A59, written between 1799 and 1810, BMNH, London. BACK

[16] Wordsworth, The Prelude (1805), Book 7, ll. 172-183, in The Prelude 1799, 1805, 1850, ed. Jonathan Wordsworth, M. H. Abrams, and Stephen Gill (New York: W. W Norton, 1979), 234. BACK

[17] Mary Louise Pratt, Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation (New York: Routledge, 1992), 138. BACK


20.         Nicholas Mirzoeff, “Ghostwriting: Working Out Visual Culture,” Journal of Visual Culture 1.2 (2002): 240.