In this 'remarkable tour de force' (Publishers Weekly)-a 'ceaselessly thought-provoking book' (Kirkus Reviews)-art historian James Elkins marshals psychology, philosophy, science, and art history to show how seeing alters the thing seen and transforms the seer. Black-and-white photographs.
"Seeing alters the thing that is seen and transforms the seer," writes Elkins, an art historian with Chicago's School of the Art Institute. Elkins further argues that "seeing is irrational, inconsistent and undependable." He uses examples from art and photography to illustrate the nature of vision and its failures. In particular, Elkins describes how we see very little of the world and how "each act of vision mingles seeing with not seeing." He also explores the paradoxical "complicity between blindness and sight." Arguing that there is no such thing as "just looking," Elkins maintains that seeing is a way of "possessing" what is seen. His discussion of our response to the human face is particularly compelling, as is his contention that "vision helps us to know what we are like," forcing us to adjust our version of the self as we see ourselves reflected in others. This unusual, thought-provoking, and well-written book offers an original perspective on the psychology and philosophy of vision.
Laurie Bartolini, Legislative Research Unit, Springfield, Ill.