This week’s reading for ENGL 527: Visual Rhetorics with Dr. Derek Mueller
Citation: Elkins, James. The Object Stares Back: On the Nature of Seeing. San Diego: Harcourt, Inc., 1996. Web.
Summary: We imagine seeing as objective, as removed from it while existing within it – we open our eyes and see it; but we are so involved in the world, so dependent on it (the observer is object), that we have to pretend we are removed to create distance in order to go on at all (from 33).
- (seeing) metamorphosis vs. mechanism
- looking/ seeing /searching
- vision vs. sight
- object (human or nonhuman)
- inaudible urgings of seeing (24)
- inaccessible/unapproachable (32)
- multiplying/changing object (39)
- observer-objects and object-observers (hybridity 44)
Passages to keep:
“The first thing to be said is that this informal notion of just looking will not do, since the eyes never merely accept light. Instead, there is a force to the light: it pushes its way into our eyes; and conversely, there is a force to the eyes: they push their way into the world.” (18)
“The proof of this is the way that absentminded looking becomes contaminated with stray thoughts. If I’m just looking around while thinking of something else, every object that comes into focus will remind me of my life: the calendar reminds me that I haven’t changed it this week; the old file folders remind me of the work not yet done; the black architect’s lamps reminds me I don’t like architect’s lamps; the coffee cup reminds me again that I am thirsty. Even when I am not thinking of the use of objects, they remind me of use. And there is a curious thing here that easily passes unnoticed: I do not focus on anything that is not connected in some way with my own desires and actions. I fail to see the stretches of wall between the lamp and the coffee cup, or the manila paper of the file folders, ore the black plastic calendar holder. My eyes can only understand desire and possession. Anything else is meaningless and therefore invisible.” (22)