Comparativism in Art History: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Comparativism in Art History

1st Edition

Edited by Jaś Elsner


234 pages | 84 B/W Illus.

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pub: 2019-03-18
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Featuring some of the major voices in the world of art history, this volume explores the methodological aspects of comparison in the historiography of the discipline. The chapters assess the strengths and weaknesses of comparative practice in the history of art, and consider the larger issue of the place of comparative in how art history may develop in the future. The contributors represent a comprehensive range of period and geographic command from antiquity to modernity, from China and Islam to Europe, from various forms of art history to archaeology, anthropology and material culture studies. Art history is less a single discipline than a series of divergent scholarly fields – in very different historical, geographic and cultural contexts – but all with a visual emphasis on the close examination of objects. These fields focus on different, often incompatible temporal and cultural contexts, yet nonetheless they regard themselves as one coherent discipline – namely the history of art. There are substantive problems in how the sub-fields within the broad-brush generalization called 'art history' can speak coherently to each other. These are more urgent since the shift from an art history centered on the western tradition to one that is consciously global.

Table of Contents


Introduction: Some Stakes of Comparison, by Stanley K. Abe and Jaś Elsner

Chapter 1: Our Literal Speed, by Our Literal Speed

Chapter 2: Locations of Comparison: Some Personal Observations, by Wu Hung

Chapter 3: Bivisibility: Why Art History is Comparative, by Whitney Davis

Chapter 4: Redundacy, Transformation, Impersonation, by Margaret Olin

Chapter 5: The Object in the Comparative Context, by Ittai Weinryb

Chapter 6: Sculpture: A Comparative History, by Stanley K. Abe

Chapter 7: Intersecting Historiographies: Henri Pirenne, Ernst Herzfeld, and the Myth of Origin, by Avinoam Shalem

Chapter 8: Comparativism in Anthropology: Big Questions and Scaled Comparison – An Illusive Dream?, by Susanne Küchler

Chapter 9: Was the Knidia a Statue? Art History and the Terms of Comparison, by Richard Neer

Chapter 10: Christian Marclay’s Real Time Fiction, by Robert Slifkin

Chapter 11: Narrative, Naturalism and the Body in Classical Greek and Early Imperial Chinese Art, by Jeremy Tanner

About the Editor

Jas Elsner is Humfry Payne Senior Research Fellow in Classical Art and Archaeology, Corpus Christi College, University of Oxford, UK andVisiting Professor of Art and Religion, University of Chicago, USA.

About the Series

Studies in Art Historiography

Studies in Art Historiography
The aim of this series is to support and promote the study of the history and practice of art historical writing focussing on its institutional and conceptual foundations, from the past to the present day in all areas and all periods. Besides addressing the major innovators of the past it also encourages re-thinking ways in which the subject may be written in the future. It ignores the disciplinary boundaries imposed by the Anglophone expression 'art history' and allows and encourages the full range of enquiry that encompasses the visual arts in its broadest sense as well as topics falling within archaeology, anthropology, ethnography and other specialist disciplines and approaches. It welcomes contributions from young and established scholars and is aimed at building an expanded audience for what has hitherto been a much specialised topic of investigation. It complements the work of the Journal of Art Historiography.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
ART / General
ART / Criticism & Theory
ART / History / General
HISTORY / General
HISTORY / Historiography