Double Exposures: The Subject of Cultural Analysis

with Edwin Janssen, ‘Das Gesicht an der Wand;’ New York: Routledge, 1996

back cover text:

Mieke Bal shows how central to the study of culture are acts of exposure - of presenting, revealing, laying bare the ‘truth’ of the cultural objects one analyzes. Whether what is placed on public view is a picture, a poem, or another scholar’s point of view, the rhetoric of persuasion in the humanities makes its claim to truth through specific conventions of display whose structures of power and authority are all too often hidden or masked from view. Through a brilliant series of case studies from art history, museum studies, anthropology, and literary criticism, Bal’s study investigates the moral choices and dilemmas that face anyone who engages in the public discussion of culture, and points toward more humane, nuanced, and astute practices of scholarship.” (Norman Bryson, Harvard University)

Bringing together an immense range of presentations - museum displays, stories, paintings, postcards, and philosophy - Mieke Bal offers fresh insights into showing and telling, analyzing the effects of display and of the different sorts of looking they encourage. What is the difference between looking at art and looking at animals in a museum of natural history? What is involved in looking at paintings and at postcards - what about paintings and stories of the Rape of Lucrece, or colonial postcards and books about colonial postcards? An expert on high culture, with major books on Rembrandt, Proust, Biblical narrative, and narrative theory to her credit, Mieke Bal here takes up the most general problems of cultural representation and treats us to cultural studies at its liveliest and most rewarding.” (Jonathan Culler, Cornell University)