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The Madness of Vision

The Madness of Vision: On Baroque Aesthetics

Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Ohio University Press
Pages: 184
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  • Book Info
    The Madness of Vision
    Book Description:

    Christine Buci-Glucksmann'sThe Madness of Vision is one of the most influential studies in phenomenological aesthetics of the baroque. Integrating the work of Merleau-Ponty with Lacanian psychoanalysis, Renaissance studies in optics, and twentieth-century mathematics, the author asserts the materiality of the body and world in her aesthetic theory. All vision is embodied vision, with the body and the emotions continually at play on the visual field. Thus vision, once considered a clear, uniform, and totalizing way of understanding the material world, actually dazzles and distorts the perception of reality. In each of the nine essays that form The Madness of Vision Buci-Glucksmann develops her theoretical argument via a study of a major painting, sculpture, or influential visual image-Arabic script, Bettini's "The Eye of Cardinal Colonna," Bernini's Saint Teresa and his 1661 fireworks display to celebrate the birth of the French dauphin, Caravaggio's Judith Beheading Holofernes, the Paris arcades, and Arnulf Rainer's selfportrait, among others-and deftly crosses historical, national, and artistic boundaries to address Gracián's El Criticón; Monteverdi's opera Orfeo; the poetry of Hafiz, John Donne, and Baudelaire; as well as baroque architecture and Anselm Kiefer's Holocaust paintings. In doing so, Buci-Glucksmann makes the case for the pervasive influence of the baroque throughout history and the continuing importance of the baroque in contemporary arts.

    eISBN: 978-0-8214-4437-5
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VIII)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. IX-X)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. XI-XII)
    (pp. XIII-XIV)
    (pp. XV-XVI)
    Christine Buci-Glucksmann
  6. PRELUDE: A “Je ne Sais Quoi …”
    (pp. XVII-XXII)

    This book, Madness of Vision,¹ is the story of a gaze that followed me, carried me away, and transported me to the depths of myself, in the labyrinth of a memory devoid of all others, in quest of the extremes of the impossible where presence and absence, fullness and emptiness, annihilation and ecstasy would coincide in Love’s “eternal abyss of harmonious discord.”

    A little girl’s fascinated gaze, her captivated gaze. The very first site of the eyes’ rapture. The bedroom was empty, desolate, abandoned; the only sensation an insistent, monotone, repeated moan. I lay there, on fire. The scream came...

  7. CHAPTER 1 The Stage of Vision
    (pp. 1-21)

    With these words, Rilke made Orpheus speak as the very Voice of music, his “canto” and his “incanto” “enchanting” the sirens. Monteverdi’s Orfeo, which premiered in Mantua in 1607, is undeniably useful here as a musical prelude to the creation of a code—a rhetoric—of opera and all of baroque aesthetics.

    Pindar called Orpheus the “Father of Songs.”¹ Sun worshipper and patron of musicians, he is the god who charmed rocks and pacified wild beasts. The poet with the golden lyre who calmed the waves and put dragons to sleep, Orpheus is the dominant metaphor of the Allegory of...

  8. CHAPTER 2 The Work of the Gaze
    (pp. 22-35)

    Imagine that you are in Venice at the Church of the Madonna dell’Orto, looking at a painting so large that it initially covered part of the organ pipes. It is Tintoretto’s The Vision of the Cross of Saint Peter (1555).

    What does Saint Peter see, looking sideways, recoiling, holding a book and staring as if dumbfounded, dazzled? Surely it is a supernatural apparition: this great spiraling column of angels carrying the cross. They are fixed and almost carried away in the play of forces of the undulating line (the serpentina), and floating suspended, frozen in the theatrical moment of corporeal...

  9. CHAPTER 3 Seeingness; or, The Eye of the Phantasm
    (pp. 36-55)

    We are more than familiar with Klee’s statement that “the painting looks back,” and even “The objects in pictures look out at us.”¹ This same Gaze, beyond all humanist access to the visible, appears in the painting like “a nucleus of strangeness,” with its irreducible alterity and inherent instability (Fable, 54). A type of phantasmic eye that abruptly places us in a Wittgensteinian language game: “You do not see the eye.”²

    We do not see it, but the baroque—as the eye of the phantasm—begins with this mad drive, this lure, where I make every attempt to possess the...

  10. CHAPTER 4 The Rhetorical Telescope I: Il Mirabile, Il Furore
    (pp. 56-78)

    To be simultaneously “much,” “little,” and “nothing,” to be like an image, a ring full of nothing that changes according to its placement, all the while inhabiting a mirror of the cosmic void: such is Georg Philipp Harsdörffer’s enigma of baroque being. As in the great allegories of the “inverted” world, we find the solution upside down: it means “o or zero with other numbers.”

    This enigma, which is so close to the divided and inverted structure of baroque vision, tells us what this world is made of: very little, nothing, from which comes an infinite proliferation (in the case...

  11. CHAPTER 5 The Rhetorical Telescope II: Figures of Nothingness
    (pp. 79-93)

    All baroque art is perpetually obsessed with nothingness in all its forms, in all its languages (il niente, Nichts, the void, the vacuum, emptiness, the abyss). The nothingness of inconstant, fickle, or foolish love, the nothingness of life, the “nothing just before, smoke just after” (Quevedo),¹ a more critical and conceptual nothingness espoused by Italian libertines, such as Manzini, who praise its subversive powers and the power of the “marvelous”; or the mystical-baroque nothingness of the emptiness of fullness, a transport of loss and rapture: it comprises a complete art, a complete philosophy of nothingness. Without even addressing other forms...

  12. CHAPTER 6 Palimpsests of the Ungazeable
    (pp. 94-113)

    In Artificial Paradises, his work of collage, Baudelaire engages in double writing—he quotes De Quincey in “Visions of Oxford,” comments on him, reshapes him—and he asserts a strange pre-Freudian theory of the cerebral and psychic systems as palimpsest. He then superimposes two forms of inscriptions: those that are chaotic, heterogeneous, and dissonant from tragedy or the grotesque; and others that are homogeneous and harmonious from an indestructible and incommensurable memory, thought from within the great paradigm of baroque philosophy (Leibniz) or Eastern philosophy (Ibn-Arabi), forming a divine palimpsest in which everything is written, preserved, and reflected in everyone...

  13. FINALE: The Burning of Vision
    (pp. 114-122)

    Beyond the ungazeable, the “eye-sickness” that might be called thought but is nothing more than the madness of seeing pushed to its baroque extreme, an entirely different gaze developed through the long silence of anamnesis. Calmed, serene, the kind of ethical serenity that came across Actaeon’s savage eye, Medusa’s petrified eye, the divided eye of anamorphosis. A gaze in harmony, the Gaze of Harmony.

    Bringing to mind the scene in a tale, the final tale, the final scene of the final night of The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night, the scene in which Scheherazade evades death by...

  14. NOTES
    (pp. 123-144)
    (pp. 145-154)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 155-172)