Colloquium: The Affective Rhetoric of Pictures: On Tears, Rembrandt, and Rothko

  • Date: Jan 22, 2019
  • Time: 05:00 PM (Local Time Germany)
  • Speaker: Herman Roodenburg
  • Location: Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Lentzeallee 94, 14195 Berlin
  • Room: Small Conference Room
  • Host: Center for the History of Emotions
  • Contact:

The Center for the History of Emotions at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, led by Prof. Ute Frevert, cordially invites all interested to attend its summer semester 2019 colloquium:

Herman Roodenburg, Meertens Institute

The Affective Rhetoric of Pictures: On Tears, Rembrandt, and Rothko

In his study Pictures & Tears, the art historian James Elkins addressed the viewers' emotional response to art – the people, today and yesterday, "who have cried in front of paintings." Going back to late medieval times, to the period's countless devotional images, he starts and ends at the Mark Rothko Chapel in Houston, Texas, with its fourteen huge, purplish-black canvases. In his talk, Roodenburg will explore what Elkins left aside: how such response actually works, how mere objects – just strokes of paint on canvas or wood – make people cry. As Roodenburg will argue, one part of the answer lies in the affective rhetoric, the enargeia, applied by the artists; another in the viewers' habitus or, more precisely, their tactus, which more than touch encompasses kinesthesia and proprioception as well. As John Krois, the great Cassirer scholar, once wrote, "Für Bilder braucht man keine Augen." Somehow, many of the northern late medieval painters but also the early modern painters staged in Werner Busch's study "Das unklassische Bild" (Titian, Rembrandt, the Rembrandtists) and recently, in their wake, Mark Rothko knew how to integrate the viewers' tactus in their affective painterly rhetoric. Roodenburg will lend a few phenomenological views on people in their affective engagement with objects from Monique Scheer and Alva Noë.

Herman Roodenburg is Emeritus Professor of Historical Anthropology at the Free University of Amsterdam and a former researcher at the Meertens Institute, also in Amsterdam. As a cultural historian, he likes to cooperate with cultural anthropologists and art historians. Among his English publications are "The Eloquence of the Body" (Zwolle: Waanders, 2004), "Forging European Identities, 1400-1700" (Cambridge: CUP, 2007), and "A Cultural History of the Senses in the Renaissance" (London: Bloomsbury, 2014). His book "The Crying Dutchman: A Pictorial History of the Early Modern Dutch and their Religious Emotions" will be published shortly.

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