On pictures and the words that fail them

On pictures and the words that fail them / James Elkins.

Publisher: Cambridge, England : Cambridge University Press, 1998.Description: xix,326 pages : illustrations (black and white) ; 24cm.ISBN: 9780521624992; 0521624991

In this innovative, interdisciplinary study, James Elkins argues against the assumption that images can be adequately described in words. In his view, words must always fail because pictures possess a residue of ‘meaningless’ marks that cannot be apprehended as signs. On Pictures and the Words that Fail Them is a 1998 text which provides detailed, incisive critiques of fundamental notions about pictures: their allegedly semiotic structures; the ‘rational’ nature of realism; and the ubiquity of the figure-ground relation. Elkins then opens the concept of images to non-Western and prehistoric ideas, exploring Chinese concepts of magic, Mesopotamian practices of counting and sculpture, religious ideas about hypostasis, philosophical discussions concerning invisibility and blindness, and questions on the limits of the destruction of meaning.