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382Philosophy and Literature furioso divide the text into fragments that offer an opportunity to comment on moral or philosophical questions. The commentaries are not primarily concerned with literary criticism; they give no hint that there is anything to laugh at in Ariosto's poem, but this can hardly be taken as evidence that the annotatore lacked a sense ofhumor. Certainly it does not prove that the readers who made Orlandofurioso a sixteenth-century bestseller were blind to Ariosto's comic vision. Similarly, the marginalia in the manuscripts of the Libro need not represent a considered response to the Libro as a whole. The annotations are limited to points their authors considered important as guides to conduct, whether their own or that of other readers. They do not tell us thatJuan Ruiz's contemporaries did not find his book funny, much less that we are wrong to laugh at it. University of OregonThomas R. Hart The Reconfigured Eye: Visual Truth in the Post-Photographic Era, byWilliamJ. Mitchell; viii & 273 pp. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1992, $60.00. In this study of electronic photography the author contends that the digital image "shakes our faith" in referentiality and truth. Digital photography deals less with the capture of reality than with a continuous processing or "mutation and proliferation of variants" (p. 50). It shelves the Aristotelian notion that there exists a "fabricator, impelled by an anticipatory idea," who "imposes form on matter" (p. 51). Where classical theory dictated that the photograph was "a window on the world," digital creations can be imagined as "windows with filters" (p. 144) . Unlike photography, a medium that records intensities oflight chemically, electronic image-making transduces "radiant energy into patterns of electric current" (p. 60) . The computer records images by placing grids of pixels over pictures. In what is called quantization, intensities are located and converted into integer values. The latter can then be mathematically recombined, shifted, mixed, or retouched. Digital processing thus transcribes surface-values. It can record structures in simulation of three-dimensions (e.g., a CAT-scan or a mazzocchio) by computing depths offield. These complex perspectival views can be shaded with degrees of hue, saturation, and luminosity. Five chapters take up the "electronic tools of the trade," which include the digital brushstroke, the virtual camera, algorithmic image construction, synthetic shading, and computer collage processing. The pixel, the basic unit of measure, is invested witii "point" and "area" values defined by its position in respect to surrounding pixels. The first two chapters document the shift from Reviews383 classical photography to scanning and digitalization, while "Intention and Artifice," "Computer Collages," and "How to Do Things with Pictures" study how ideology exploits electronic hardware. Digital photographs resemble speech-acts: they are studied in respect not to a content but to the ways they serve to create beliefs and desires. Agencies can endow pictures with illocutionary force that varies according to context but always establishes "a powerful orthodoxy of graphic communication" (p. 222). The book suggests that a new ethics needs to account for digital imaging. Three components can be considered. First, heeding Michel Foucault's view that modern science treats facts as impersonal objects where scholasticism had invested them with authority in reference to an origin, we must (1) fancy images as processes that recombine and contort conventions, and (2) use the technology to impugn claims of authenticity. New technologies tell us that truth-effects, like the images that produce them, must be continually scanned. A third component might derive from Mitchell's extraordinary picture on the dustjacket (also fig. 10.1). A pictural variant on a sixteenth-century blason du corps féminin, the image displays the Mona Lisa's left eye in an infinity of sizes, the largest of which resembles a reversed comma laid on its dexter side. The abstract cipher reveals a vanishing point of infinitely smaller pixels of the same eye that reflect the outer world on the upper left side of the lady's pupil. Eyes are within eyes that describe eyes emerging, disappearing, dissolving, but also, when we squint, a unique eye with a sharp outline of a shaded comma. The mass of pixels shows how digital photography, fabricating images from increasingly smaller...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 382-383
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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