1st Edition

Reading the Visual

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ISBN 9781865087306
Published November 1, 2004 by Routledge
226 Pages

USD $32.95

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Book Description

From the body to the ever-present lens, the world is increasingly preoccupied with the visual. What exactly is the visual' and how can we interpret the multitude of images that bombard us every day?

Reading the Visual takes as its starting point a tacit familiarity with the visual, and shows how we see even ordinary objects through the frameworks and filters of culture and personal experience. It explains how to analyse the mechanisms, conventions, contexts and uses of the visual in western cultures to make sense of visual objects of all kinds.

Drawing on a range of theorists including John Berger, Foucault, Bourdieu and Crary, the authors outline our relationship to the visual, tracing changes to literacies, genres and pleasures affecting ways of seeing from the Enlightenment to the advent of virtual technology.

Reading the Visual is an invaluable introduction to visual culture for readers across the humanities and social sciences.

Table of Contents


1. Reading the visual

2. Visual technologies

3. Communication and the visual

4. Visual narratives

5. Visual art, visual culture

6. Normalising vision

7. Selling the visual

8. The media as spectacle




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Tony Schirato is Senior Lecturer in the School of English, Film and Theatre at Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand. He is the co-author of Communication and Cultural Literacy. Jen Webb is Senior Lecturer and Director of Writing in the School of Creative Communication at the University of Canberra, Australia. They are both co-authors of Understanding Foucault and Understanding Bourdieu.


Eloquently written, admirably clear, passionately argued, Schirato and Webb have given us one of the best textbooks on the emergent field of visual culture. Smart, clear and relevant examples challenge readers to question their visual environments and become critics and creators themselves.'

Professor Sean Cubitt, University of Waikato

This is a splendid book. It is both intellectually sophisticated and written in an extremely accessible manner.'

Professor Jim McGuigan, Loughborough University

This book treats the interpretation and value of visual artefacts with depth, while remaining highly accessible. It is very readable: written in a lively and engaging style with examples that are refreshing and up-to-date.'

Professor Guy Julier, Leeds Metropolitan University