Our Beautiful, Dry, and Distant Texts examines art historical writing as an expressive medium, capable of emotion and reflection - and therefore deserving of serious consideration for its own sake, as the testament of art history and of individual historians. Elkins asks such questions as: How do various art historical approaches represent works of art? What can they see, and what must they miss? And what insight does such writing offer us about ourselves? Drawing on analyses of texts by Derrida, Deleuze and other leading critics, as well as illustrations of artworks from various cultures, Elkins constructs an eloquent plea for circumspection in the entire endeavour of trying to force images into words and in the curious vocation of writing the history of art.
James Elkins is Professor of Art History, Theory and Criticism at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He is the author of many books, including How to Use Your Eyes (1999), What Painting Is (1998), and Why are Our Pictures Puzzles? (1999), all published by Routledge.
"Concerned with the rhetorical dimensions of artwriting, Elkins identifies the ways in which immediate questions about the truth of interpretation are inevitably deflected by awareness of the stylistic qualities of art historians' texts... Wildly imaginative at making connections, his highly original book inevitably will be one necessary starting point for all future discussion." -- David Carrier, Carnegie Mellon University