James Elkins: Limits of the Criticism of Writing in the Humanities
Free Public Lecture
Ever since new criticism, literary study has been developing ideas of close reading. Since the inception of poststructuralism there has been wide acknowledgment of the constructed nature of the text. In the last 15 years there have been even more models for understanding texts, including 'distance reading' and 'surface reading'.
Given that amazing richness of interpretive possibilities, it is strange that the humanities continue to teach writing on a rudimentary level, stressing clarity, concision, and organisation – basic pedagogy that was already out of date 100 years ago.
This talk is an informal survey of the absence of the tools of literary theory and rhetoric in fields such as sociology, anthropology and art history, with special reference to examples such as Rosalind Krauss, Alex Nemerov, T.J. Clark, Stephen Greenblatt, Steven Pinker and Saul Kripke.
James Elkins’ lecture is coordinated in partnership with the Power Institute, University of Sydney, as part of the Keir Lectures on Art series, supported by the Keir Foundation.
Image: Argenteuil, Edouard Manet, 1874
Professor James Elkins, Professor of Art History, Theory and Criticism, and Visual and Critical Studies
Professor James Elkins
Professor of Art History, Theory and Criticism, and Visual and Critical Studies
School of the Art Institute of Chicago
James Elkins is Professor of Art History, Theory and Criticism, and Visual and Critical Studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His writing focuses on the history and theory of images in art, science, and nature. Some of his books are exclusively on fine art *(What Painting Is, Why Are Our Pictures Puzzles?)*. Others include scientific and nonart images, writing systems, and archaeology *(The Domain of Images, On Pictures and the Words That Fail Them)*, and some are about natural history *(How to Use Your Eyes)*. Recent books include *What Photography Is*, written against Roland Barthes’s *Camera Lucida; Artists with PhDs*, second edition; and *Art Critiques: A Guide*, third edition.