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The Madness of Vision

On Baroque Aesthetics

Christine Buci-Glucksmann

Publication Year: 2013

Christine Buci-Glucksmann’s The 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.

This edition features a new preface by the author and scholarly annotations by the translator that explicate key terms of phenomenological thought and comment on the ways in which Buci-Glucksmann integrates and extends the language and ideas of other theoreticians within her study.

Published by: Ohio University Press

Series: Series in Continental Thought


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-9

Table of Contents

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pp. ix-11


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pp. xi-xii

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Translator's Preface

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pp. xiii-xiv

One of the challenges of the translator’s work is to attempt to inhabit the mind of another. This is simultaneously one of the richest aspects of translation. In the case of Christine Buci-Glucksmann, approaching her work means reckoning with extraordinary erudition and keeping pace with a rapid and...

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Authors Preface

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pp. xv-xvi

The Madness of Vision was first published in 1986 and reissued in June 2002 in an expanded context based on new research on virtual reality (La folie du voir: Une esthétique du virtuel). An entire aesthetic and philosophical voyage connects the baroque to the virtual via three historical...

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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...

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Chapter 1

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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...

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Chapter 2

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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 he 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...

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Chapter 3

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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...

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Chapter 4

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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...

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Chapter 5

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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...

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Chapter 6

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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...

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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...


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pp. 123-144


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pp. 145-154


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pp. 155-172

E-ISBN-13: 9780821444375
Print-ISBN-13: 9780821420195

Page Count: 184
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Series in Continental Thought