Modern French Visual Theory

A critical reader

Edited by Nigel Saint and Andy Stafford

Modern French Visual Theory


  • Hardcover
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Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-8130-9
  • Pages: 288
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £16.99
  • Published Date: January 2013
  • BIC Category: Theory of art, Cultural Studies, ART / Criticism & Theory, The arts / Theory of art


When French theory went global in the late twentieth century its visual wing was understandably built on the work of its best-known thinkers, notably Foucault, Derrida, Barthes and Deleuze. However these names merely scratch the surface of a vibrant and innovative body of theory that has been produced in France over the last six decades. As well as a substantial interview with Sorbonne professor Bernard Vouilloux, this volume focuses on a range of theorists who usually sit under the academic radar, especially when outside of France: Arasse, Buci-Glucksmann, Damisch, Debray, Didi-Huberman, Heinich, Marin, Schefer and Stiegler. Also discussed is the important work on the visual by Baudrillard, Merleau-Ponty, Metz and Nancy.

All of these thinkers are given introductory and exploratory treatment here, and are allowed to talk between themselves. By looking at a wider set of theories and theorists relating to the visual, the debates are able to cross-fertilize, with the chapters divided into five major areas: phenomenology and beyond; new art histories and genealogies; semiotics and methodologies; memory and the body; and the digital era.

This volume brings together international scholars working within Visual Culture and Art History, to look in detail at a range of issues in French contemporary visual theory. The chapters cover the main media of visual culture: fine art, cinema, museology, photography, as well as the key philosophical coordinates of modern times - phenomenology, structuralism and semiology, post-structuralism, psychoanalysis, sociology, aesthetics and Marxism. Throughout, the volume offers in-depth accounts of keywords, broad critical and historical contexts, and close attention to the language of visual theory.


All in all, the volume overall is a magnificent achievement of conceptual organization, careful and coordinated management of a large team of expert contributors, and high editorial standards in general. A work highly-recommended for all specialist readers interested in French thought on the visual.
, Hugh Dauncey, Newcastle University, Contemporary French Civilization, 11 May 2015


Nigel Saint and Andy Stafford both teach French Studies in the University of Leeds


Introduction - Nigel Saint and Andy Stafford
Part 1. Precursors: Phenomenology and Semiotics
1. 'Merleau-Ponty: The Madness of Vision' (Nathalie Aubert)
2. 'Christian Metz: Constructing Meaning in Film' (Martine Joly)
Part 2. New Art Histories and Genealogies
3. 'Daniel Arasse's Joyful Visual Science: In the Intimacy of History and Art' (Ralph Dekoninck)
4. 'Dream Perspectives: Hubert Damisch, Psychoanalysis, and Early Modern Art History' (David Packwood)
5. 'Christine Buci-Glucksmann: the Archaeology of Shadows or the Aesthetics of Image-Flux' (François-Xavier Gleyzon)
Part 3. Representation, Mediology and Sociology
6. 'Louis Marin's Theories of Representation: between Text and Image, from Visuality to Figurability' (Agnès Guiderdoni)
7. 'Transmission versus Communication: Régis Debray's Mediology' (Andy Stafford)
8. 'Value, Meaning, Method: Nathalie Heinich's Sociological Perspectives on Visual Culture' (Shirley Jordan)
Part 4. Memory, Body, Image
9. 'Seeing and Touching: Jean-Luc Nancy and the Ground of the Image' (Ian James)
10. 'Georges Didi-Huberman: Images, Critique and Time'
(Nigel Saint)
11. 'Jean-Louis Schefer: The Body of the Image' (Patrick ffrench)
Part 5. The Digital Era
12. 'Jean Baudrillard' (Paul Hegarty)
13. 'Real Time: Bernard Stiegler and the Politics of Digitalization (Arthur Bradley)
Part 6. Afterword
14. Interview with Bernard Vouilloux (Saint and Stafford)

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