The Handbook of Visual Culture

A copy of the new Handbook of Visual Culture arrived on my desk a few weeks ago, edited by Ian Heywood and Barry Sandywell and published by Berg.  The beautiful cover is a painting by Mark Francis called Episodic.

I have a chapter in the Handbook called ‘The question of method: practice, reflexivity and critique in visual culture studies’.  I first drafted it a while back, and the Journal of Visual Culture didn’t like it all; Ian and Barry, on the other hand, liked it a lot and are kind enough to say that it “makes a strong case for other paradigms of meaning and interpretation based upon situated practices, active audience reception and context-sensitive hermeneutics” (on page 535 – yes, 535 – of the Handbook).  While I’m enough of a pedant to have some quibbles with parts of that phrasing (particularly ‘reception’, which sounds rather passive and misses the co-constitution of seer and seen), the chapter certainly does argue against the implicit semiological methodology of much visual culture studies in broadly those terms.

The Handbook is full of interesting essays, including a nice one by Fiona Summers on photography and visual culture.  Recommended.

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