“[Mitchell] undertakes to explore the nature of images by comparing them with words, or, more precisely, by looking at them from the viewpoint of verbal. “[Mitchell] undertakes to explore the nature of images by comparing them with words, or, more precisely, by looking at them from the viewpoint. INTRODUCTION In , W. J. T. Mitchell published his ‘ Iconology’, with a sequel – an ‘applied iconology’ – in ‘Picture theory’. His program is ambitious.

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What is an image? Rather, what is the relationship between image and idea, image and word, the visual and the verbal, or the visible and the sayable? What is the relation of pictures and language?

Is the one superior to the other, or each of them belongs to the different realm? The thing that Mitchell surpass other contemporary visual studies scholars — especially in art history — in his Iconology and its companion book, Picture Theoryis that his questions are not limited to the visual, usually understood, material pictorial or artistic images.

Instead of just pointing out the difference between them, praising or devaluating the visual images, he pays attention to the dialectic relationship between material images and mental images.

In other words, he focuses on the way of representation in which thoughts have constructed, while looking into the theoretical history of pictures. The dialectic of word and image seems to be a constant in the fabric of signs that a culture weaves around itself.


In Picture TheoryMitchell repeats almost the same discussion on the relation between images and words but with a slight variation. Here the relation between words and images is more interactive and even more intermingled.

‘W. J. T. Mitchell and the image’. Review of ‘Iconology’ and ‘Picture theory’ by Stefan Beyst

How can he picture theory? Mitchell creates a couple of new theoretical concepts to explain this complicated and diverse relationships or junctions between picture and theory: It is mostly what philosophers have strategically used to picture represent their idea.

The metaphor for ideology is the camera obscuraand the image behind the concept of commodity is the fetish or idol. In other words, though they are pictures painted by artists, they give something to think about pictures themselves to beholders or philosophers. Nonetheless, both concepts are cooperative, or rather mutually constitutive.

Why is this investigation on the relation of image to language significant? Why do we have to look into the intimate relations between them, even when we are already under the influence of the power of images? Why are the images problematic now?

Mitchell thinks that we are in a paradoxical condition, in which the advancement of technologies are opening unprecedented power and space for the visual, on the one hand positiveand overwhelming power of images is intimidating the subjects, on the other hand negative.


Only in this paradoxical situation, after the pictorial domination, we seem to realize a necessity to investigate the relation of images to words, pictures to ideas. So the pictorial turn reaches to the very concept of culture — in Marxian context, ideology. That is why Mitchell tries to ask the relation between image and ideology. To put it another way, the problem of image iconology is, in the end, that of ideology; both have political concerns.

Iconology: Image, Text, Ideology

Whether philosophical epistemologicalpictorial, social politicalor even ethical representation, the relations of images and words ideas are fundamental. You are commenting using your WordPress. You are commenting using your Twitter mitcyell. You are commenting using your Facebook account.

W. J. T. Mitchell’s Iconology and Picture Theory | What is to be done

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