The final volume in the Stone Art Theory Seminars is an attempt to assess the history and current forms of the field known as visual studies, visual culture, or visual culture studies. The three co-editors (James Elkins, Sunil Manghani, and Gustav Frank) represent different perspectives on the field: roughly speaking, the U.S., U.K., and Germany, respectively. The book is the first to seriously address German-language Bildwissenschaft, largely ignored in the Anglophone literature, and it is also the first to look at the history and prehistory of the field, going back to the period between the wars and the emergence of visuelle Kultur. The object of the book is to make thinking and writing in visual studies more difficult.

The Introduction, available as a download, describes the current state of writing about the discipline of visual studies, and puts this book in relation to Visual Literacy, Visual Cultures, Theorizing Visual Studies: Writing Through the Discipline, and Visual Studies: A Skeptical Introduction.

An excerpt of the Seminars is also available here. It is a self-contained excerpt from the book on the history of visual studies. Seminar 1, on “visuelle Kultur,” which includes a discussion of Walter Benjamin, Hugo Münsterberg, Bela Balász, and other writers before World War II, who comprise a sort of visual studies avant la lettre. The excerpt also includes Seminar 2, on Anglo-American Visual Studies, 1989-1999; it was led by Michael Holly, and includes her thoughts about the founding moments of visual studies in North America, and some of its lost promise. The excerpts conclude with a seminar on the recent history of visual studies, led by Sunil Manghani and focusing on Mieke Bal and events in the 2000’s. W.J.T. Mitchell also participates here, and discusses his own work.

Contributors to the book include Emmanuel Alloa, Nell Andrew, Linda Báez Rubí, Martin A. Berger, Hans Dam Christensen, Isabelle Decobecq, Bernhard J. Dotzler, Johanna Drucker, James Elkins, Michele Emmer, Yolaine Escande, Gustav Frank, Theodore Gracyk, Asbjørn Grønstad, Stephan Günzel, Charles W. Haxthausen, Miguel Á. Hernández-Navarro, Tom Holert, Kıvanç Kılınç, Charlotte Klonk, Tirza True Latimer, Mark Linder, Sunil Manghani, Anna Notaro, Julia Orell, Mark Reinhardt, Vanessa R. Schwartz, Bernd Stiegler, Øyvind Vågnes, Sjoukje van der Meulen, Terri Weissman, Lisa Zaher, and Marta Zarzycka.

Some participants in the Chicago seminars. Left: Lisa Cartwright. Right: Keith Moxey and Michael Ann Holly.