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Curious Visions of Modernity

Enchantment, Magic, and the Sacred

written by David L. Martin

MIT Press | ISBN 9780262016063

Hardback – 272 pages


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In Curious Visions of Modernity, David Martin unpacks a collection of artefacts from the visual and historical archives of modernity, finding in each a slippage of scientific rationality - a repressed heterogeneity within the homogenised structures of post-Enlightenment knowledge. In doing so, he exposes modernity and its visual culture as being haunted by precisely those things that rationality sought to expunge from the "enlightened" world: enchantment, magic, and wonderment.

Martin traces the genealogies of what he considers three of the most distinct and historically immediate fields of modern visual culture: the collection, the body, and the mapping of spaces. In a narrative resembling the many-drawered curiosity cabinets of the Renaissance rather than the locked glass cases of the modern museum, he reveals to us a world renewed through the act of collecting the wondrous and aberrant objects of Creation; tortured and broken flesh rising from the dissecting tables of anatomy theatres to stalk the discourses of medical knowledge; and the spilling-forth of a pictorialising geometry from the gilt frames of Renaissance panel paintings to venerate a panoptic god. Accounting for the visual disenchantment of modernity, Martin offers a curious vision of its re-enchantment.

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