‘Fiction with footnotes’: Writing art history as literary practice

Session Convenor

Tilo Reifenstein, Manchester Metropolitan University t.reifenstein@mmu.ac.uk

Session Abstract

Jaś Elsner’s description of art-historical writing as ekphrasis plants the practice firmly in the purview of poetry, literature or fiction, though be it, in his words, ‘fiction with footnotes’. A similar propinquity between the creative work of the artist and that of the historian has been noted, among others, by Boris Groys, Christa-Maria Lerm Hayes and Hayden White, who have indicated that far from being ignobled by the fiction tag, the discipline is perhaps ennobled to deliver on the irreducible multiplicity of its ‘objects’ which hitherto sat uneasily with a scientistic pursuit of linearity, resolution and teleological determination that also treats writing as a neutral expedient. Yet art historians seem reticent to embrace their literary selves, as though it is safer on the side of the putative objectivity of language.

The aim of the session is to develop the characteristics of art-historical writing as a practice that necessarily not only negotiates the boundary of visual and verbal, but also manifests a literary fiction produced in the discursive framing of knowledge and meaning-making about artefacts, subjects, processes and their historic contexts. The session invites theoretical and philosophical approaches, as well as case studies, to writing as an epistemic practice of art-historical research. Conceptualisations of art history’s writing practice in view of fact, fiction and knowledge production, and critical readings of art history as Wissenschaft will help in framing the discipline as a practice that not only has to contend with political, institutional and ideological demands but also those of writing itself.

To offer a paper
Please email your paper proposals direct to the session convenor, details above.

Provide a title and abstract (250 words maximum) for a 25-minute paper (unless otherwise specified), your name and institutional affiliation (if any).

Please make sure the title is concise and reflects the contents of the paper because it will appear online, in social media and in the printed programme.

You should receive an acknowledgement of receipt of your submission within two weeks from the session convenor.

Deadline for submissions: Monday 5 November 2018

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