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American Imago 60.1 (2003) 105-115
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Is There a Life after Antiquity?
Louis Rose observes in this delightful study that each of the trio of thinkers he discusses-the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, the art historian Aby Warburg, and the archeologist Emmanuel Loewy-was in his own way concerned with the "survival of images" in the classical tradition, or, in Warburg's words, "das Nachleben der Antike." Freud himself in his youth underlined the following passage in his copy of Jakob Burckhardt's Cicerone: "What the eye perceives in this and other Greek edifices are not mere stones, but living beings." 1 This sense of the vitality of the past-an essential theme of the book by the great historian of the Renaissance-depended on the relation of images to memory as understood by such important contemporaries as Bergson. 2
The shared quest for this cultural "afterlife" provides the guiding thread for Rose's interdisciplinary account of three figures not previously united even in the vast literature on Freud, though Ernst Gombrich touched on all three: he wrote an essay (1966) on Freud, a book (1970) on Warburg, and passages (1960, 22-23) on his teacher Loewy, but he did not interrelate them. 3 The present review will attempt to supplement Rose's book with comments on the personal ramifications of the striving of Freud and Warburg (Loewy's biography is less instructive) for the survival of the classical tradition, and with a brief account of the aftermath of their project.
The devotion of these Jews to gentile culture might seem surprising, particularly considering the traditional Jewish resistance to idolatrous imagery and emphasis on the "survival of [End Page 105] the word" or the book rather than on that of the image. However, as middle-class Jews raised in a cosmopolitan milieu, they were exposed in their liberal educations as much to classical and Christian arts and literature as to the Old Testament. And enlightened German intellectuals strove to undo their religious prejudices, often expressing their new values in drama, a medium that was also instrumental for propagating the ideology of the French Revolution. Indeed, in his discussion of the Protestant Lessing's play Nathan the Wise (an influence on both Freud and Warburg), Rose shows that tolerant Germans in the eighteenth century could view the figure of a Jew as an Enlightenment hero rather than a calculating villain (Lessing's wise Nathan as the antipodes of sly Shylock).
Rose develops his theme through a series of questions with answers derived from the three authors. First, how does what is classical survive? The answer: "image-making in the classical tradition thus provided a means of return" (26). To explain how images themselves survive, Rose goes beyond the usual vehicles of museum collections, monuments, or even the written word, and rephrases the problem in terms proposed by Lessing, who "defined the essential question confronting the artist. By what means did a single fragment or image convey a drama? According to Warburg and Freud, that same question confronted the modern cultural scientist" (36).
Above all, Rose argues, Freud and Warburg have in common "the image of movement" (48). To Warburg ancient art had an emotive force, and its language or gesturing embodied an action or passion he called the Pathosformel. Loewy too (66-69) saw motion (as well as plasticity) as crucial to The Rendering of Nature in Greek Art, the title of his book of 1900. Loewy asserted that the classical Greek artist transformed the archaic memory-picture by fusing the observation of nature with the inspiration provided by drama. The artist, that is, started with a schema or image that he matched against the motif corresponding to it in the visible world. 4
In drama and its associated representation of movement Rose locates a common ground for key theories developed by each of his three thinkers-Freud's ideational mimetics, Warburg's Pathosformel, and Loewy's schemas. He points out [End...