W. J. T. Mitchell

  • Nelson Goodman

    NELSON GOODMAN’S WORK touched on so many fields—philosophy, of course, but also the arts, the sciences, and psychology—that it is difficult for anyone to appreciate, much less summarize, what it has all meant for us, or even to specify the “us” that will continue to have some stake in his work. More appreciated in Europe than America, invoked as an authority in fields from cognitive science to artificial intelligence to art criticism to analytic philosophy, Goodman has had a massive yet unobtrusive influence on contemporary thinking in a wide variety of disciplines. He never achieved the kind


    SOMETIME IN THE SPRING of 1984 a remarkable essay arrived at the offices of Critical Inquiry in Chicago: “Signs Taken for Wonders: Questions of Ambivalence and Authority under a Tree outside Delhi, May 1817,” submitted for a special issue edited by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. I can still recall the wonder I felt in reading those slightly overlong sheets of flimsy onionskin paper, typed with a manual typewriter. The author, Homi Bhabha, was unknown to me, and the topic—the arrival of the “English book” (scripture, literature, technology) at a scene of colonial reception—suddenly made my whole previous


    I taped an interview with Robert Morris a few hours before the February opening of his current retrospective at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. We sat on the floor in the Tower Gallery, where some of is earliest objects were displayed—Slab, Frame, and Corner, all from the early ’60s. Mercifully, most of this conversation turned out to be inaudible on the tape. Instead, we offer here an edit sequence of the faxed exchanges that occurred in the days just before and after the opening.

    W. J. T. MITCHELL: Let’s pretend this is your 15 minutes and I’ll ask you some celebrity questions.

  • Downcast Eyes

    WHAT ARE WE TO MAKE OF the recent outpouring of books on the subjects of visuality and visual culture? No longer confined to studies of visual art, or to specific visual media such as film, photography, video, or TV, the new studies survey literary and philosophical texts, psychosocial constructions of visual experience, and what might be called “vernacular practices” of the visual in public and private life. Books with such titles as The Dialectics of Seeing, Visual Theory, The Optical Unconscious, Vision and Visuality, Techniques of the Observer, The Reader’s Eye, and Signatures of the Visible


    All the impulses of the media were fed into the circuitry of my dreams. One thinks of echoes. One thinks of an image made in the image and likeness of images. It was that complex.
    —Don DeLillo, Americana, 1971

    RICHARD RORTY HAS CHARACTERIZED the history of philosophy as a series of “turns” in which “a new set of problems emerges and the old ones begin to fade away”:

    The picture of ancient and medieval philosophy as concerned with things, the philosophy of the seventeenth through the nineteenth century with ideas, and the enlightened contemporary philosophical scene with words has considerable