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  • Editor's Note
  • Andrea Gogröf

The articles of this special volume presented diverse and international responses to the theme "Ways of Seeing: Visuality, Visibility, and Vision" of the 115th Annual Conference of the Pacific Ancient and Modern Language Association, held in Honolulu in November 2017. The first part of the title honors the work of the late John Berger, whose 1972 BBC TV series and 1973 book adaptation Ways of Seeing opened up new perspectives on the relation between art, the image, the world, and us as seeing subjects as well as objects seen. In accord with Berger's general premise that the "relation between what we see and what we know is never settled" (Berger, 7) this volume offers a broad variety of viewpoints and examination of the ways in which the sense of vision has defined and continues more than ever to define our understanding of past and present culture as a living kaleidoscope. The topic's appeal at this juncture in time is indeed manifold, and all matters related to the sense of sight—always already connected to power—impart themselves with a certain kind of urgency as we are finding ourselves no longer in the aftermath of the proverbial "pictorial turn" but in a pictorial maelstrom, inundated and drowning in the visual for better and possibly also for worse. However, while the digital revolution certainly intensifies and raises the stakes in terms of the consequences of a heightened visibility for all, a double-edged state of transparency that we are in the midst of negotiating, the history of seeing [End Page 113] itself does not seem to have a determinable time of origin: to see and be seen is a fundamental problem that reshapes our relation to images and notions of self, and of the private and public spheres alike.

In recent scholarship, we can discern two strands of investigation, both interdisciplinary in nature. On the one hand, the discipline of Surveillance Studies developed in the 1970s, with Michel Foucault's sociohistorical critique as a major basis to think about power relations and surveillance strategies. On the other, the field of visual studies that understands vision as the master sense of an ocular-centric modernity and developed in the late 1980s with publications such as Hal Foster's Vision and Visuality, a seminal collection of essays presenting the problem of vison, visuality, and visibility from the poststructuralist, (art)-historical, and psychoanalytical perspectives. The projects of both academic fields have grown to address the universal and specific concerns of today's expository society and offer a rich foundation for the contributions to this special volume. Included in this volume is a revised and expanded version of my Presidential Address, delivered at the 115th PAMLA convention, that highlights the connection between contemporary literature and major theories of Surveillance Studies today.

In an egalitarian spirit, the contributor's articles appear in alphabetical order beginning with Olivia Albiero's "Fürstenfelde und Unterleuten: Two German Villages and Their Digital Representation." Within the context of growing interest in real and fictional villages in German-speaking countries, the author advocates the recently developed use of virtual enhancement and the dynamics of digital visualization to complement and boost public interest in this genre beyond the literary works these digital visualizations are based on. While village novels have always been and still are popular as providing "literary spaces for historical projections, cultural memories, and personal and collective identities," their virtual online space allows for an ongoing and interactive space where a sense of identity, community and tradition can thrive, online and in real life for the many that participate. Spectator participation and gender identification is the topic of Chloe Allmand's essay, "'Boy, Girl, You Are a Sword': Male Viewer to Female Character Cross-Gender Identification in Game of Thrones." Drawing on Laura Mulvey's ground breaking critique of Hollywood's reflecting the patriarchal male gaze in "Visual Pleasure in Narrative Cinema," and adjusting it to today's politics of gaze de-gendering, the author takes an original look at one of the most popular TV shows of this young century. Taking as an example the sister pair Arya and Sensa Stark as...


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pp. 114-116
Launched on MUSE
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