Is human vision universal and largely unchanging, or historically conditioned? What happened to the Western understanding of vision when the camera obscuraAa simple pinhole camera popular in the 17th and 18th centuriesAgave way to the Kodak? Columbia University art historian Crary brings a multidisciplinary approach to such questions, and though his work is densely written for an academic audience, it can be fun to read if only for the illustrations of such wacky 19th-century optical toys and devices as the phenakistiscope and the Kaiserpanorama. The book's focus is the cultural function and meaning of an ideal of "attentiveness," which reveals that the contemporary prognosis of "attention deficit disorder" has roots in much earlier anxieties about the failure of concentrated perception. Examining a vast range of scientific writings, works of art and objects from the world of early mass entertainment, Crary argues that 19th-century European culture became obsessed with a perceived breakdown in attentionAas focus and concentration seemed to give way to trance, reverie, monomania and hypnosis. At well over twice the length of Crary's earlier book (1990's elegant Techniques of the Observer), this volume is comparatively unfocused and loosely organized. Extended analysis of three central oil paintings by Manet, Seurat and C?zanne promisesAbut never quite managesAto unify all the heterogeneous material into a coherent whole.
⇒Origins of Modern Visual Culture（英語）