Visual Analogy

Visual Analogy

Consciousness as the Art of Connecting

By Barbara Maria Stafford

A groundbreaking book exploring the discovery of sameness in otherness.





A groundbreaking book exploring the discovery of sameness in otherness.

Recuperating a topic once central to philosophy, theology, rhetoric, and aesthetics, this groundbreaking book explores the discovery of sameness in otherness. Analogy poses an intriguingly ancient and modern conundrum. How, in the face of cultural diversity, can a unique someone or something be perceived as like what it is not? This book is for anyone puzzled by why today, as Barbara Maria Stafford claims, "we possess no language for talking about resemblance, only an exaggerated awareness of difference." Well-designed images, Stafford argues, reveal the mind's intuitive leaps to connect known with unknown experience.

The first of four wide-ranging chapters paints a challenging overview of several pressing contemporary issues. Cloning, legal controversies about social inequity, identity politics, electronic copying, and the mimicry of virtual reality expose the need for a nuanced theory of similitude. The second examines the historical tug-of-war between analogy and allegory, or disanalogy. Stafford provocatively suggests that, since the Romantic Era, we have been living in polarizingly allegorical times. The third roots this divisiveness within the momentous shift from a magical universe, modeled on sexual bonds, to an engineered world built of discrete automated units. Finally, recent developments in computational brain research notwithstanding, major phenomenological questions about memory, emotion, intelligence, and awareness beckon. In the fourth chapter, Stafford intervenes in the consciousness debates to propose a humanistic cognitive science with bridging/analogy at its artful core.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262194211 240 pp. | 7 in x 9 in


$35.00 X ISBN: 9780262692670 240 pp. | 7 in x 9 in


  • In Visual Analogy, Barbara Stafford argues that contemporary culture, with its increasing awareness of diversity, desperately needs a rhetoric that can find simluarities across difference, a rhetoric she locates in analogy. Richly illustrated and trenchantly argued, Visual Analogy re-invigorates the ancient trope of analogy and establishes its continuing relevance for postmodern thought.

    N. Katherine Hayles

    Professor of English, University of California

  • A generous and wonderfully wide-ranging account of how, by restoring the visual to its rightful place in our thinking, we can approach a fuller sense of our humanity. Artists in all disciplines should be grateful to Stafford for the grace and authority she brings to such a crucial project. She is, in the fullest sense of the word, a mediator—between iconophones and iconophiles, artists and critics, words and visions—making much-needed connections in an intellectual environment that appears all too often committed only to enforcing divisions.

    James Schamus

    School of the Arts, Columbia University, and producer/screenwriter, The Ice Storm and Ride with the Devil

  • This innovative history makes it possible to imagine the coming epoch of holistic multimedia in which analogy plays the role that allegory played in postmodernism.

    Gregory L. Ulmer

    Professor of English and Media Studies, University of Florida