TABLE OF CONTENTS

PRINT March 1992

THE PICTORIAL TURN

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 plausibility.1

The final stage in Rorty’s history of philosophy is what he calls “the linguistic turn,” a development that has complex resonances in other disciplines in the human sciences. Linguistics, semiotics, rhetoric, and various models of “textuality” have become the lingua franca for critical

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