An essay on the current state of the theory of the gaze, and a critical assessment of its recent development.

 

 

 

The End of the Theory of the Gaze

Unpublished essay (2002-2009)

This is an essay on the state of theorizing on the gaze; it attempts to collect the existing theories, several of which do not make contact with one another, into several groups. The essay is probably not appropriate as an introduction to the subject, except as a bibliographic resource. Parts are written at what would normally be considered graduate level; it includes discussions of the recent art historical and psychoanalytic theories.
The essay is also critical and partisan; my thesis is that theories of the gaze have stalled because they have difficulty in describing the complex and subtle interactions that are common in artworks. (And secondarily, because they are best suited to Western, post-Renaissance art.)

This essay is from a book called The Visual, a work that was in progress, and now is stalled. (August 2009) It was, or is, an attempt to write a better "art appreciation" text: something for freshmen that goes beyond the usual color wheels and composition studies. The idea was to jump-start the usual "introduction to art" course, letting beginning students take part in current debates in art theory and criticism.
Other essays from The Visual on this site include "Space, Form" and "Time and Narrative."