The Simplest of Signs: Victor Hugo and the Language of Images in France, 1850-1950
Must we learn how to read pictures? Or are pictures viewed, and texts read? If both pictures and texts are read, what theory accounts both for this reading and the manifest differences that exist between the two sign systems? In response to such questions, Timothy Raser traces the evolution of simple signs from the Romantic moment to the recent past, showing how a desire for direct signification informs both canonical Romantic texts and the art-critical texts of subsequent generations. Employing semiotic analyses, he isolates the devices used by poetry, plays, novels, and art criticism to produce effects of immediacy. So doing, he describes the rhetoric of art criticism as it evolved over the nineteenth century in France. The tropes of this genre are particular to it - resurrection is a favored metaphor - and these tropes, when deconstructed, explain arguments, evaluations, and choices that saturate the field. Timothy Raser is a Professor of French at the University of Georgia.
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