Barbara Maria Stafford

Barbara Stafford is the William B. Ogden Distinguished Service Professor of Art History at the University of Chicago. She is the author of Good Looking, Artful Science, Body Criticism, and Voyage into Substance (all published by MIT Press).

  • Visual Analogy

    Visual Analogy

    Consciousness as the Art of Connecting

    Barbara Maria Stafford

    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.

    • Hardcover $60.00 £44.95
    • Paperback $35.00 £27.00
  • Good Looking

    Good Looking

    Essays on the Virtue of Images

    Barbara Maria Stafford

    Challenging the reflexive identification of images with vice.

    Building on the arguments of her previous books, Body Criticism (MIT Press, 1991) and Artful Science (MIT Press, 1994), Good Looking challenges the reflexive identification of images with vice. Today rampant criticism, both inside and outside the academy, condemns the immoralities of aesthetic illusion, museum display, cable television, and hypermedia. Believing with the American pragmatists that it is harder to do than to denounce, Barbara Stafford urges imagists to abandon Foucault's bankrupt paradigm of verbal combat. Instead of more "improving" theoretical discourse, she calls for developing a positive visual praxis on the interpretive ruins of linguistic postmodernism. Organized around three major themes—the explosion of optical information, the urgency of inventing an imaging interdiscipline, and the ethical dilemmas of technological transparency—these twelve essays connect a disappearing lens culture to the digital diaphanousness of the twenty-first century.

    • Hardcover $45.00
    • Paperback $25.00 £17.95
  • Artful Science

    Artful Science

    Enlightenment Entertainment and the Eclipse of Visual Education

    Barbara Maria Stafford

    Exploring the exhilarating but paradoxical intertwining of enchantment with enlightenment in the early modern period.

    What has happened to the magic of learning? Playful illusions, spellbinding games, and lifelike automata were once integral to education. Artful Science reveals the exhilarating but paradoxical intertwining of enchantment with enlightenment in the early modern period. A cross-disciplinary guide to intellectual high and low life of the eighteenth century, Artful Science makes the case for the pedagogical opportunities inherent in an oral-visual culture. Barbara Stafford draws on an extraordinary range of historical sources and popular imagery, exploring from a new perspective the perceptual cognition that she so deftly analyzed in Body Criticism. Her important reinterpretation also casts many well-studied paintings as instances of an instructive art of demonstration. Artful Science opens by describing the evolution of mathematical recreations and their relationship to the middle class's increasing leisure time. Subsequent chapters focus on the problem of distinguishing legitimate science from virtuoso fraud; the public performance of experiments; and early attempts to create informative and attractive natural history exhibits. Throughout, Stafford emphasizes the concern for telling truth from fiction in a world of alluring technology. The enlighteners' relentless association of sensory evidence with deception led to the submergence of a "tricking" oral-visual culture by "serious" mass literacy drives, Stafford observes. Yet sophisticated teaching techniques and ingenious learning machines made abstractions concrete and appealing to ever-widening eighteenth-century audiences. With the modern computer graphics revolution always in view, Artful Science suggests fresh means for putting intelligence, enjoyment, and communicative power back into thinking with images.

    • Hardcover $45.00 £34.95
    • Paperback $19.75 £14.99
  • Body Criticism

    Body Criticism

    Imaging the Unseen in Enlightenment Art and Medicine

    Barbara Maria Stafford

    In this erudite and profusely illustrated history of perception, Barbara Stafford explores a remarkable set of body metaphors deriving from both aesthetic and medical practices that were developed during the enlightenment for making visible the unseeable aspects of the world. While she focuses on these metaphors as a reflection of the changing attitudes toward the human body during the period of birth of the modern world, she also presents a strong argument for our need to recognize the occurrence of a profound revolution—a radical shift from a textbased to a visually centered culture. Stafford agues, in fact, that modern societies need to develop innovative, nonlinguistic paradigms and to train a broad public in visual aptitude.

    • Hardcover $60.00 £44.95
    • Paperback $50.00 £40.00
  • Voyage into Substance

    Art, Science, Nature, and the Illustrated Travel Account, 1760-1840

    Barbara Maria Stafford

    Voyage into Substance reopens the whole complex question of how nature was perceived and penetrated during the Enlightenment - a time when artist-scientists trekked across Egyptian deserts, astronomer-mariners navigated the Polar seas, and meteorologist-aeronauts "sailed" through the atmosphere's "waves," all seeking to discover and record the non-human likeness of the phenomenal world.

    By examining the popular, multi-national illustrated narratives and atlases of the period, the book relates the voyagers' attentive, firsthand mode of seeing and precise copying of the enduring and the ephemeral features of the environment (before the advent of photography) to the major philosophical, scientific, and aesthetic debates of the time. Arguing that these accounts disclose an anti-Picturesque tradition of representation, the book opens new doors to establish the persistence of a "plain," that is, a style of landscape depiction that culminates in 19th-century realism.

    Voyage into Substance analyzes a vast repertory of geological, mineralogical and biological treatises concerning the self-expressive physiognomy of the earth and shows them to be important precursors and allies of the non-fictional travel narrative. Intertwining art, literature, philosophy, geography, and the history of science, with the aid of 304 plates, the book adds significantly to all these disciplines and is a unique contribution to the field of art and architectural history as well as to modern intellectual history.

    Publication of this book was partially funded by the Millard Meiss Fund of the College Art Association of America and by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

    • Hardcover $49.50

Contributor

  • MediaArtHistories

    MediaArtHistories

    Oliver Grau

    Leading scholars take a wider view of new media, placing it in the context of art history and acknowledging the necessity of an interdisciplinary approach in new media art studies and practice.

    Digital art has become a major contemporary art form, but it has yet to achieve acceptance from mainstream cultural institutions; it is rarely collected, and seldom included in the study of art history or other academic disciplines. In MediaArtHistories, leading scholars seek to change this. They take a wider view of media art, placing it against the backdrop of art history. Their essays demonstrate that today's media art cannot be understood by technological details alone; it cannot be understood without its history, and it must be understood in proximity to other disciplines—film, cultural and media studies, computer science, philosophy, and sciences dealing with images.

    Contributors trace the evolution of digital art, from thirteenth-century Islamic mechanical devices and eighteenth-century phantasmagoria, magic lanterns, and other multimedia illusions, to Marcel Duchamp's inventions and 1960s kinetic and op art. They reexamine and redefine key media art theory terms—machine, media, exhibition—and consider the blurred dividing lines between art products and consumer products and between art images and science images. Finally, MediaArtHistories offers an approach for an interdisciplinary, expanded image science, which needs the "trained eye" of art history.

    Contributors Rudlof Arnheim, Andreas Broeckmann, Ron Burnett, Edmond Couchot, Sean Cubitt, Dieter Daniels, Felice Frankel, Oliver Grau, Erkki Huhtamo, Douglas Kahn, Ryszard W. Kluszczynski, Machiko Kusahara, Timothy Lenoir, Lev Manovich, W.J.T. Mitchell, Gunalan Nadarajan, Christiane Paul, Louise Poissant, Edward A. Shanken, Barbara Maria Stafford, and Peter Weibel

    • Hardcover $43.00 £29.95
    • Paperback $30.00 £24.00
  • Sensorium

    Sensorium

    Embodied Experience, Technology, and Contemporary Art

    Caroline A. Jones

    Artists and writers reconsider the relationship between the body and electronic technology in the twenty-first century through essays, artworks, and an encyclopedic "Abecedarius of the New Sensorium."

    The relationship between the body and electronic technology, extensively theorized through the 1980s and 1990s, has reached a new technosensual comfort zone in the early twenty-first century. In Sensorium, contemporary artists and writers explore the implications of the techno-human interface. Ten artists, chosen by an international team of curators, offer their own edgy investigations of embodied technology and the technologized body. These range from Matthieu Briand's experiment in "controlled schizophrenia" and Janet Cardiff and Georges Bures Miller's uneasy psychological soundscapes to Bruce Nauman's uncanny night visions and François Roche's destabilized architecture. The art in Sensorium—which accompanies an exhibition at the MIT List Visual Arts Center—captures the aesthetic attitude of this hybrid moment, when modernist segmentation of the senses is giving way to dramatic multisensory mixes or transpositions. Artwork by each artist appears with an analytical essay by a curator, all of it prefaced by an anchoring essay on "The Mediated Sensorium" by Caroline Jones. In the second half of Sensorium, scholars, scientists, and writers contribute entries to an "Abecedarius of the New Sensorium." These short, playful pieces include Bruno Latour on "Air," Barbara Maria Stafford on "Hedonics," Michel Foucault (from a little-known 1966 radio lecture) on the "Utopian Body," Donna Haraway on "Compoundings," and Neal Stephenson on the "Viral." Sensorium is both forensic and diagnostic, viewing the culture of the technologized body from the inside, by means of contemporary artists' provocations, and from a distance, in essays that situate it historically and intellectually. Copublished with The MIT List Visual Arts Center.

    • Hardcover $46.95 £37.00