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Getting Perspective

Friday, April 24, 2015
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Location: Dabney Hall 110 (Treasure Room)

This workshop will generate an interdisciplinary conversation about perspective as a cultural-historical concept that, across different periods, relates human subjectivity to protocols of vision.  While perspective is a topic of interest in several disciplines, such as art history, literature, film studies, landscape design and history and the history of science, it is rarely discussed in a cross-disciplinary or cross-historical fashion.  In novel studies, for instance, point of view or perspective has long been recognized as a critical device in the production of believable characters with psychological "depth," yet its relationship to the use of perspective in Italian Renaissance and seventeenth-century Dutch art to create spatial depth has been ignored.  Landscape design, self-consciously indebted to the principles of painting throughout the eighteenth century, relies on perspective to determine the appearance of objects in space from different viewing points.  Yet rarely if ever does perspective in landscape design enter into discussions about literary manipulations of point of view such as free indirect discourse, which evolved around the same time as the professionalization of landscape architecture in eighteenth-century England.  Such omissions are surprising, for "by definition pictures constructed according to the rules of perspective embody an individual, particularized point of view" (Lew Andrews, Story and Space in Renaissance Art).

How might looking at perspective in a cross-historical and cross-disciplinary fashion, always presuming that perspective entails embodying "an individual, particularized point of view," shed light on our understanding of the distinctions and relationships between looking and reading, seeming and being, feeling and knowing?  How are the conventions and techniques for creating perspective and point of view in film, virtual space and architecture different from those used in painting, literature and landscape design?  What have been the roles of instruments, devices and tools in creating perspective and points of view in science and technology?  How have the visual and spatial markers of "depth" and "scale"—perspective's main effects—come to be moral as well as mimetic standards?  And how do different historical-cultural practices of perspective change or challenge our understanding of the role materiality plays in not only shaping the individual self, but also in shaping the individual self's relationship to her or his world?

Speakers at the workshop include:
Mary Ann Doane, Department of Film and Media, University of California Berkeley, "The Legibility of Cinematic Space: Perspective and Scale"
Sven Dupré, History of Knowledge at the Institute for Art History at the Freie Universität and the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, "The Materiality of Renaissance Perspective"
Denis Ribouillault, Department of Art History and Film Studies, University of Montreal, "Optical Experience in the Gardens of Baroque Rome"
Robin Schuldenfrei, Courtauld Institute of Art, "Materiality in Perspective: Object Relations and Post-War Berlin Commemoration"
Cynthia Wall, Department of English, University of Virginia, "Grammars of Approach"

Organizer:
Julie Park, Caltech-Huntington MTI Long-Term Fellow 2014-2015 and Department of English, Vassar College

Download a detailed schedule with abstracts

Series: Materialities, Texts and Images (MTI) Workshops
For more information, please phone 626-395-4228 or email sabrina@hss.caltech.edu

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