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PREFACE This book is about the origins, development, uses, and effects of a new kind of picture: the conceptual scientific illustration. Unlike the descriptive anatomical and natural historical illustrations of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries—­ images that show how things look (albeit always in some idealized or stylized way)—­ the conceptual scientific illustration visually explains how things work using concepts, metaphor, and allusion. It emerged first in the United States in what now seems an enchanted moment: the early twentieth century, a time of heedless technological enthusiasm. Assembled out of the proliferating visual practices and tropes of newspaper and magazine graphics, the conceptual scientific illustration was instigated by the Progressive-­ era visual instruction reform movement and fueled by the growing belief that visual narrative —­ in books, magazines, pamphlets, posters, lantern shows, and motion pictures—­ was the most effective and modern way to reach workers, children, and the general public. Such was argued in the 1917 edition of a seminal publication, the encyclopedia/manifesto Pictured Knowledge and its article “The Body We Live In,” which features drawings of little figures and machines doing work inside the cross-­ sectioned human body, rendered in bravura Sunday-­ magazine illustration style. In 1919, those images crossed the Atlantic and appeared in a German-­ language Swiss publication called Wunder in Uns. One of the contributors, a German Jewish physician-­ journalist named Fritz Kahn, was quick to seize on the possibilities of conceptual illustration. In collaboration with a stable of commercial artists, he went way beyond “The Body We Live In” and built a career out of the new genre. Kahn presented thousands of pictures. In popular books and articles, his artists infused conceptual scientific illustration with a rich assortment of modern and modernist styles: figurative realism, Dada, Art Deco, photomontagery, Bauhaus functionalism. By the late 1930s, conceptual scientific illustrations, in works authored or influenced by Kahn, were appearing in publications and exhibitions in Europe, the Soviet Union, xii  | PREFACE the Middle East, North and South America, even China. In his own land, however, things were complicated: initially the Nazis denounced Kahn and banned his books, but after a few years, they appropriated his illustrations for their own health publications, adding material on racial hygiene and suppressing any evidence of Jewish authorship. By the early 1950s, conceptual scientific illustration was incorporating nearly every style of aesthetic modernism, even abstract expressionism, and was cropping up in all sorts of cultural spaces—­ pharmaceutical advertisements, animated cartoons, military instructional manuals, exhibition halls, sexology guides, and children’s books. Body Modern is neither a biography of Fritz Kahn nor a comprehensive study of his work. Rather, what readers will find here is a mix of historical narration, analysis of images, and essayistic meditation on the dialogical relation between embodied life, subjectivity, and pictures . In other words, this book is about how images cast their spell, how technologies shape the mode and content of images, and how people use images and images use people. In the twentieth century, there was a politics of text versus image: debates over the social meaning, moral effects, desirability, instrumental uses, and control of images. That politics, I argue, was all about how to get modern. Fritz Kahn was an impresario of the modern. He exploited his readers’ ardent desire to become modern, their worries over how to be modern, and their pleasure in seeing themselves as moderns. He did so with great effect, in part because his career was itself a performance of the modern—­ a wallow in the sheer pleasure of his own proliferating images of modernity. The picture practices of Pictured Knowledge and Kahn, then, present us with an opportunity to rethink modernity and its images. Scholarly arguments about when modernity begins—­ its essential technologies and characteristics, what’s right and wrong with it—­ are now threadbare . Kahn and his readers defined the modern in opposition to the primeval and recent historical past; they figured it as a condition that dissolves the historicity of present-­ day experience; and yet they had a deeply historicist understanding of themselves as moderns, inhabitants of the modern age. We, of course, know that modernity was never outside history. And so we need to treat modernity as a historical artifact, to consider their modernity, a powerfully seductive (and contested and unstable) set of beliefs, performances, and practices in a particular place and time. The modern was a protean, shape-­ shifting identity formation made out of ever-­ changing experiences with its own prolific imaginary. Kahn catered to a public that...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781452915777
Related ISBN
9781517900212
MARC Record
OCLC
956584181
Pages
272
Launched on MUSE
2017-04-07
Language
English
Open Access
No
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