“Image Theory” deals with a specific visual phenomenon: it asks what an image is, how it addresses us, and how its features vary throughout history. And in a slight shift of emphasis, “Image Theory” may also designate a particular way of thinking with, through or by means of images: it explores the function of pictorial constellations in sociology, philosophy, anthropology, psychology, epistemology ... The course links these two notions; it gives insight into seminal modern definitions of the image, and it does so by analyzing its uses in contemporary fields of knowledge.

Since, from a historical perspective, the concept of the image shows an exceptional variability (from early hunting magic to Byzantine icons, from Baroque illusion to modern realism or cutting-edge digital design), and since it also exhibits a stupendous generic breadth (including two-dimensional paintings, three-dimensional sculptures, still photographs, animated visualizations, fetishes, maps, video games, diagrams, and even verbal tropes), our course cannot aim at an exhaustive overview or final definition. Instead, we will focus on individual images as both objects and tools of thinking.

After an introductory discussion of the image in its broader social and theoretical contexts, the course examines, for instance, how a painting can reflect new epistemic discourses or participate in gender constructions. We look into the narrative dimension of images and into their capacity for simulating space or movement. And we will approach them as translations of science or as material bodies. Through descriptive exercises, theoretical close readings and two short field trips, participants will not only become acquainted with many concrete instances of imagery and imagination but also with diverse discourses that position the image at the heart of CEU’s core academic disciplines.

Here is a short teaser/trailer for the course: