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Downcast Eyes: The Denigration of Vision in Twentieth-Century French Thought (Centennial Book) Paperback – 26 Aug 1994


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Downcast Eyes: The Denigration of Vision in Twentieth-Century French Thought (Centennial Book) + Techniques of the Observer: On Vision and Modernity in the 19th Century: On Vision and Modernity in the Nineteenth Century (October Books) + Suspensions of Perception: Attention, Spectacle and Modern Culture (October Books)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 644 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; New Ed edition (26 Aug. 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520088859
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520088856
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 3.8 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 432,655 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"The scholarship displayed in this book is dazzling. . . . [Its publication] is an extremely important intellectual event."--Rosalind Krauss, Founding Editor, "October

About the Author

Martin Jay is Sidney Hellman Ehrman Professor of History at the University of California, Berkeley. His books include Force Fields (1992), Marxism and Totality (California, 1984), Adorno (1984), and The Dialectical Imagination (1973).

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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 27 Sept. 1997
Format: Hardcover
Martin Jay provides us with an encyclopedic survey of the role of vision in western thought, particularly France. Jay, who is strangely not dissimilar to Greil Marcus in this respect, has the knack for picking out lesser known texts and facts and integrating them into his analysis. If youre a foucault scholar, it's worth it just for the account of Roussel's role in Foucault's epistemic development. That is just one example. It is chock full of these fascinating details.
Alas, it remains a literature review with an interesting focus. If this were a lecture, I'd bring a tape recorder, knowing that I'd collapse into slumber on the one hand while being aware that what was being said was critical to my growth as an intellectual. Unlike Marcus, who works creatively with obscure texts, Jay suffers from an academic conservatism that ends up reading like a well-done second chapter to a conventional dissertation. If that is your need or if you like that sort of thing, by all means go buy it. Go buy it anyway, it is indispensable as a survey but read it with a triple espresso at hand.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 7 reviews
32 of 36 people found the following review helpful
Excellent survey, stylistically conservative 27 Sept. 1997
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Martin Jay provides us with an encyclopedic survey of the role of vision in western thought, particularly France. Jay, who is strangely not dissimilar to Greil Marcus in this respect, has the knack for picking out lesser known texts and facts and integrating them into his analysis. If youre a foucault scholar, it's worth it just for the account of Roussel's role in Foucault's epistemic development. That is just one example. It is chock full of these fascinating details.
Alas, it remains a literature review with an interesting focus. If this were a lecture, I'd bring a tape recorder, knowing that I'd collapse into slumber on the one hand while being aware that what was being said was critical to my growth as an intellectual. Unlike Marcus, who works creatively with obscure texts, Jay suffers from an academic conservatism that ends up reading like a well-done second chapter to a conventional dissertation. If that is your need or if you like that sort of thing, by all means go buy it. Go buy it anyway, it is indispensable as a survey but read it with a triple espresso at hand.
11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Ivan Illich likes it 11 May 2005
By John Verity - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Says Ivan Illich in a marvelous paper - Guarding the Eye in the Age of Show - available from the Pudel site in Bremen:

"Historians of scopic regimes are people who concentrate their attention on the ethology of sense

activities in different cultures and epochs. If I had to choose a name for their discipline, I would call

it "historical opsis" to distinguish it from the history of optics. It is this focus on the image that

interests me here."

And here, he offers this footnote:

"I know of no better introduction to this field than Martin Jay, Downcast Eyes: The Denigration of

Vision in Twentieth-century French Thought (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993). The main

theme of the book is the French critique of ocularcentrisme, from Bergson, Bataille, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty

to Lacan, Foucault, Barth, Derrida and Irigaray. However, the three introductory chapters to the body of the

book, which deal with the gaze from Plato to Descartes, and the large bibliography - usually critically

evaluated in the footnotes which refer to English and German twentieth-century authors - make this volume

a reference tool of a new kind."
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Balloon ride over tricky terrain 8 Jun. 2011
By Lisa A. Swanson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
For those who have struggled to grasp the big picture of French
philosophy, historian Martin Jay has created a solution. His book,
eschewing the complex textual strategies of the French thinkers
he discusses, offers up a clear narrative for his readers centered
around Western philosophy's seminal concept: vision.

Not only is this book entertaining, funny, and sharply focused, but
it is also a "Guide to the Perplexed" when it comes to the arcane
world of French theory. Highly recommended not only for its
intellectual rigor, but also for its entertainment value. Thank
you Dr. Jay!
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
outstanding book 15 July 2009
By M. Van Mechelen - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Already a classic, much quoted book, that all students in philosophy, cultural studies or modern art history should read.
Understanding visual theory 10 Sept. 2013
By Annie Geard - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Its a bit hard to "love" difficult books, however, this is a great source to find entree into arcane, and often almost impenetrable treatises by some of the big names in visual and philosophical theory. The source material, particularly if it has been translated from another language, can be very dense, so to find a well written and clear book on such works is a bit of a relief,
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