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Princeton University Press
Roman Eyes: Visuality and Subjectivity in Art and Text

Roman Eyes: Visuality and Subjectivity in Art and Text

by Jas Elsner


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In Roman Eyes, Jas Elsner seeks to understand the multiple ways that art in ancient Rome formulated the very conditions for its own viewing, and as a result was complicit in the construction of subjectivity in the Roman Empire.

Elsner draws upon a wide variety of visual material, from sculpture and wall paintings to coins and terra-cotta statuettes. He examines the different contexts in which images were used, from the religious to the voyeuristic, from the domestic to the subversive. He reads images alongside and against the rich literary tradition of the Greco-Roman world, including travel writing, prose fiction, satire, poetry, mythology, and pilgrimage accounts. The astonishing picture that emerges reveals the mindsets Romans had when they viewed art--their preoccupations and theories, their cultural biases and loosely held beliefs.

Roman Eyes is not a history of official public art--the monumental sculptures, arches, and buildings we typically associate with ancient Rome, and that tend to dominate the field. Rather, Elsner looks at smaller objects used or displayed in private settings and closed religious rituals, including tapestries, ivories, altars, jewelry, and even silverware. In many cases, he focuses on works of art that no longer exist, providing a rare window into the aesthetic and religious lives of the ancient Romans.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780691096773
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 04/15/2007
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 376
Product dimensions: 7.00(w) x 10.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

Jaś Elsner is Humfry Payne Senior Research Fellow in Classical Archaeology at Corpus Christi College, University of Oxford, and Visiting Professor of Art History at the University of Chicago. His books include Imperial Rome and Christian Triumph and Art and the Roman Viewer.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Prologue xi

Chapter 1: Between Mimesis and Divine Power Visuality in the Greco-Roman World 1

PART 1: Ancient Discourses of Art

Chapter 2: Image and Ritual Pausanias and the Sacred Culture of Greek Art 29
Chapter 3: Discourses of Style Connoisseurship in Pausanias and Lucian 49
Chapter 4: Ekphrasis and the Gaze From Roman Poetry to Domestic Wall Painting 67

PART 2: Ways of Viewing

Chapter 5: Viewing and Creativity Ovid's Pygmalion as Viewer 113
Chapter 6: Viewer as Image Intimations of Narcissus 132
Chapter 7: Viewing and Decadence Petronius' Picture Gallery 177
Chapter 8: Genders of Viewing Visualizing Woman in the Casket of Projecta 200
Chapter 9: Viewing the Gods The Origins of the Icon in the Visual Culture of the Roman East 225
Chapter 10: Viewing and Resistance Art and Religion in Dura Europos 253
Epilogue: From Diana via Venus to Isis Viewing the Deity with Apuleius 289

Bibliography 303
Index Locorum 335
General Index 343

What People are Saying About This

Shadi Bartsch

Jas Elsner is the predominant contemporary scholar of the relationship between classical art and ancient subjectivity. His is a sensibility particularly attuned to the way in which viewing, desire, social constructions and generic discourses interplay and interact. It is simply impossible not to take his arguments into consideration if one works on Roman material culture and the place of art in literature.
Shadi Bartsch, University of Chicago

Froma Zeitlin

The major virtue of this work, quite simply, is its author. Jas Elsner is by now one of the most well-known figures in the field of ancient art history, respected for his notable erudition, extensive range of interests and expertise, his continuing productivity, and above all, for the originality of his mind. This volume stands both as a kind of convenient introduction to a number of issues that have engaged Elsner's attention over these last years—and continue to do so—and as a rich feast of sophisticated and often brilliant readings of individual texts and artifacts, always written with clarity and style.
Froma Zeitlin, Princeton University

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