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Tables of Knowledge: Descartes in Vermeer's Studio.

Harriet Stone

1 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 0801444616 / ISBN 13: 9780801444616
Published by Cornell.
Used Condition: Used - Like New Hardcover
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Fine. Cloth, D-j. 2006. Originally published at $45.95. Bookseller Inventory # W84348

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Tables of Knowledge: Descartes in Vermeer's ...

Publisher: Cornell.

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition:Used - Like New

Dust Jacket Condition: Dust Jacket Included

About this title


Descartes believed that his analytic model applied to all fields of research and that all branches of science lead to truth. His many analogies with literature and art notwithstanding, Descartes offers an entry into knowledge that fails nevertheless to take into account how in the seventeenth century Dutch painters such as Vermeer similarly order a view of the world by concentrating on the properties of individual objects. Descartes's celebrated scientific method offers a protocol for conducting experiments; Harriet Stone argues that this method can also serve as a guide for classifying the findings obtained from experiments. Tables of Knowledge shows that Dutch genre paintings and still lifes enact in visual form a process of recording information similar to that of science, with intriguing results.Stone investigates such diverse topics as seventeenth-century advances in optics and the attendant explosion of data about the natural world; the proliferation of material goods in prosperous Dutch homes; and the compelling realism of Golden Age paintings. Vermeer and his contemporaries, she contends, transform a potentially threatening consumerism into the viewer's aesthetic pleasure. The artists' depictions of rooms where framed images and maps adorn walls and where fruit, shimmering glassware, gold pieces, and other precious items are set out on tables constitute an inventory of middle-class life. Appealing to both the eye and the mind, Dutch paintings convey meaning by accentuating the luxury of objects displayed in all their specificity. While not without its voyeuristic, sensual, and even lascivious overtones, art offered the Dutch, who labored under the moral austerity of the Protestant Church, a way of bearing witness to ordinary experience that was unmistakably satisfying and surprisingly Cartesian.Illustrated with sixteen pages of color reproductions of Dutch masterworks, as well as five black-and-white images, Tables of Knowledge will interest intellectual and cultural historians of the early modern period, art historians, and historians and philosophers of science.

From the Back Cover:

"In a bold and surprising move, this book pairs up the French philosopher and scientist Descartes with the Dutch artist Vermeer, looking at each through the lens of the other. This seemingly odd couple results in a fascinating new exploration of the intersections between science and art."-Sara Melzer, UCLA

"Harriet Stone offers a bold, iconoclastic demonstration of how Vermeer's art informs Descartes's science, as both strive to 'see the light.' Drawing on art criticism, epistemology, literary representation, narratology, and neuroscience, she brilliantly uncovers the disconnect between Descartes the careful collector of data and Descartes the flawed narrator."-Ronald W. Tobin, University of California, Santa Barbara

"Tables of Knowledge is one of the clearest and most engaging books about Cartesian science and aesthetics that I have read. It is an essential work for anyone concerned with the way our modernity grows out of artistic, religious, and philosophical representations of the world in the late Renaissance and seventeenth century."-John D. Lyons, Commonwealth Professor of French, University of Virginia

"Tables of Knowledge is one of the most original recent contributions to seventeenth-century studies. Harriet Stone's book presents in stunning juxtaposition Descarte's writings that revolutionized Western philosophy with Vermeer's stunningly transcendent paintings. Stone uses the hook of Holland—the country in which, without ever coming in direct contact with each other, these two titans lived—to draw her reader into an exploration of the ways Western perceptions of reality were gradually and inexorably being shifted from one representational universe to another. Informing her readings of Descartes and Vermeer is a solid grounding in seventeenth-century politics, theology, and culture. Stone's book interweaves literature, philosophy, art history, and visual studies. Her book's seduction lies in the ways this interweaving of discourses brings to the fore in the example of these two very different men the underlying epistemic changes that so intrigued Michel Foucault in his! own analyses of the great shift in Western representation that occurs during the seventeenth century and that ushered in what we now call 'modernity.'"-Mitchell Greenberg, Cornell University

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