This is a book project, probably, or maybe just a series of class notes. It’s a work in progress: these aren’t completed blog entries, but drafts for chapters that I am continuously revisiting. All comments welcome, either here or on Facebook or via my website.

This site is the second part of a larger project. The first part is called “What is Interesting Writing in Art history?.” If you are new to this material, it is best to have a look at that site first.

I am moving out of art history (the story is here). “Writing with Images” and “What is Interesting Writing in Art History?” are designed to help me find my way, to theorize what counts as writing in and out of art history.

Links on this page lead to completed texts and drafts.

 

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments

 

1  The Idea of Writing with Images

This chapter includes a bibliographic survey of writing (in continuous narratives) with images (without captions or call-outs). It takes up where the final chapter of “What is Interesting Writing in Art History?” left off: texts that aren’t really about artworks, and don’t have images physically present in the book.

 

2   Texts as Images

This is a second bookkeeping chapter, which is concerned with four categories of texts I would like to exclude from this project: (1) Writing on images (ekphrases); (2) Writing as images (typography, graphic text); (3) The page as an image (design); and (4) The book as an image.

Supporting readings:

(1) Mallarmé, Un coup de dès

(2) Jonathan Safran Foer’s Tree of Codes

(3) Robert Walser’s microscripts (discussed in the chapter)

(4) Barbara Browning’s I’m Trying to Reach You (discussed in the chapter)

(5) Christian Bök’s Crystallography

(6) Anne Carson’s Nox

(7) Helene Sommer, I was there.

(8) Karen Green’s Bough Down (discussed in the chapter)

(9) The black page in Tristram Shandy (discussed in the chapter)

(10) Arno Schmidt, School for Atheists and Evening Edged in Gold (discussed in the chapter)

(11) Monica Ong, Silent Anatomies

Other possible readings: Tom Phillips’s A Humument: A Treated Victorian Novel; Stephen Farrel and Steve Tomasula’s VAS: An Opera in Flatland: A Novel; Jen Bervin’s Nets; Herta Müllers’s experiments; the Schloegel Archive.

 

3 Readings: Novels with Images

The inquiry begins here, with a series of close readings. What ties these, loosely, in one chapter is their relatively traditional narrative forms, which encounter and accommodate (or ignore) images in various ways.

Supporting readings:

(1) Georges Rodenbach’s Bruges-la-Morte

(2) John Gardner’s Mickelsson’s Ghosts

(3) Kobo Abe’s The Box Man

(4) Wright Morris’s The Home Place and Plains Song

(5) Umberto Eco’s Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana,

(6) W.G. Sebald, exemplified by Rings of Saturn); notes on Sebald’s influence (for example on Vicenz Serrano and Lise Patt).

(7) Richard Weihe, Sea of Ink

I may also discuss Walter Abish’s 99: The New Beginning, Kathleen Hill’s Who Occupies This House?, William Vollmann’s The Rifles and the photographic supplements to Imperial, Ivan Vladislavic’s collaborations, Jennifer Egan’s Goon Squad (and website), Christoph Benda, Will Self’s Walking to Hollywoodand Minae Mizumura’s A True Novel.

 

4  Readings: Experimental Writing With Images

This chapter collects readings of texts in which the writing presents itself as experimental—loosely speaking, as an intervention in the novel form.

Supporting readings:

(1) Joseph Battell’s Ellen; or, Whisperings of an Old Pine (draft, not linked yet)

(2) Raymond Roussel’s New Impressions of Africa

(2) Andre Breton’s Nadja

(3) Yves Bonnefoy’s The Arrière-pays

(4) Susan Howe’s The Midnight

(5) Jacques Roubaud’s Great Fire of London

(6) Tan Lin’s Seven Controlled Vocabularies

(7) Alexander Kluge and Gerhard Richter, December

(8) Arno Schmitt, Evenings Edged with Gold

(9) Julián Ríos, Larva: Midsummer Night’s Babel

I may also discuss Louis Aragon’s Paris Peasant; Leslie Scalapino’s Dahlia’s Iris: Secret Autobiography + Fuction; John Berger and Anne Michael’s Railtracks; Claude Cahun’s Disavowal; Debra di Blasi’s The Jirí Chronicles; Helene Sommer’s I Was There; John Holten’s The Readymades; Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge; Thomas McGonigle’s Going to Patchogue; Hannah Weiner’s Open House; Roberto Bolaño’s story “Labyrinth“; and Lydia Davis’s Cows.

 

5  An Attempt at Theory

This chapter is a list of strategies that have been used in writing with images, and the meanings that are generated. Examples are taken from throughout this project, with some additions: Jesse Ball’s Silence Once Begun; Anne Carson’s Nox; Orhan Pamuk’s Istanbul.

 

6  Problems and Possibilities For Writers

Because this project is aimed at the criticism and theorization of the contemporary practice of experimental writing with images—and because its impetus is my own writing, which has meant I read every book with an eye to where writing with images might go next—this book ends with a practical chapter, for writers, summarizing issues raised by the preceding chapters.


Acknowledgments

This project has been built online, so I owe thanks to many people on Facebook, Twitter, and Academia who have suggested readings and pointed out errors. Among many others I want especially to mention Karen Schiff, William Marotti, John Armstrong, Susanne Slavick, Andrei Molotiu, Paul Gladston, and Jaleen Grove. About 100 people commented on posts from this site in 2014. Thanks everyone!

And I also owe thanks to the unpredictable and engaging ideas of the “Writing with Images” seminar, in its first iteration, spring 2014: Lily Brewer, Marisa Choate, Angharad Davies, Frederick Eschrich, Brian Leahy, Bert Marckwardt, Meghan Morris, Kayla Risko, Julia Ruskin, Jessica Sattell, Yuri Stone, Nadira Wallace, Daniel Spangler, Kendel Woods, and Yinzi Yi. Special thanks, also, to my research assistant in 2014, Maggie Carrigan.

And last but not least: to Terry Pitts, the presiding scholar of this subject: thanks for your patience with my outsider’s perspective and all your many suggestions.

§2 · By · June 10, 2013 ·


5 Comments to “0 / Table of Contents”

  1. kedoleske says:

    To let you know, I find this wonderful. Thank you. (still reading and taking things in.)K

  2. Interesting project.

  3. Domingos Coelho says:

    Question:
    Writing with images is similar to thinking in pictures ? According to Goodman “First, a thought may involve not, or not only, activities on the way towards but rather, or also, the state of readiness for production. Second, and more important, thinking in words or pictures may often involve preparing or being ready not, or not only, to produce such words or pictures but rather, or also, to judge a word or picture produced or presented as agreeing or not agreeing with the one in mind. When I succeed in ‘calling up a mental picture’ of a place I saw briefly long ago my ability to produce a picture may be negligible but I am much readier than before to accept some pictures as right and reject others as wrong,
    and to suggest changes.” pag.213
    “thinking in words or pictures or other symbols may involve not only preparation for producing a judging but also for perceiving seeing, hearing such symbol”. 214
    Goodman, N. (1982) On thoughts without words.’ Cognition, 12, 211-217

    • James Elkins says:

      Thanks so much for reminding me of that essay — Goodman is always wonderful. I am trying, in this project, to keep to actual physical images printed (or onscreen) with their text. Principally the reason is that many issues that arise with mental pictures and ekphrases depend on what authors do, or intend, with text and actual images. As Goodman might say, texts and (real) images are a well-made world; the other possibilities, such as mental images, are sometimes metaphors of those worlds. What I have to say about this is in chapter 2 (writingwithimages.com/?page_id=466).

  4. Lewis Koch says:

    A good project. One can always think of omissions, of course, but I’ll just begin with Bern Porter.

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