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Kaja Silverman’s Miracle of Analogy

From left: William Henry Fox Talbot, A Leaf, ca. 1840, photogenic-drawing negative, 3 3/4 × 3 3/8“. William Henry Fox Talbot, A Leaf, ca. 1840, salted paper print, 3 5/8 × 3 3/8”.

The Miracle of Analogy, or The History of Photography, Part I, by Kaja Silverman. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2015. 240 pages.

READERS FAMILIAR WITH the work of Kaja Silverman—the renowned theorist and self-described “hardcore cultural constructivist” who came to prominence in the 1980s and ’90s—might be surprised by the title of her latest book, not least because it apparently trucks in miracles. Equally unexpected is that Silverman, known for major texts addressing semiotics, linguistics, and psychoanalysis, has written the first of two volumes that proclaim to offer something so empirical as “the history of photography.” If this project sounds overtly religious or deterministic, fear not. The “miracle of analogy” in the book’s title is borrowed from a passage by Marcel Proust, not the Bible, and Silverman’s “history,” although peppered with chronological

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