Wednesday, January 04, 2023

Kristeller reviews Panofsky [JSTOR

He begins by describing the argument, adding that what he's done is "very far from doing justice to the great wealth of detailed information and of fruitful ideas assembled in this volume", and then —"Since I am not qualified to judge Panofsky's interpretation of the numerous works of art which he has occasion to discuss"—limits his criticism to a full column of corrections in translation and sourcing.  And then he winds it up.

The book contains many noteworthy remarks, e.g., on the importance of artistic genres (p. 56), on the effects of textual errors on artistic representations (p. 105), and on the theory and practice of perspective (pp.I22ff.). I should like to confirm the view that Italian Trecento painting partly resulted from the conflux of Byzantine and French Gothic elements (p. 137) with a parallel from the history of humanist learning, and to endorse the remark (p. 187), hardly ever encountered in the literature on Erasmus, that his Praise of Folly "ends on a very serious and essentially Neo-Platonic note." I also agree with Panofsky and Gombrich that Renaissance Platonism opened up "to secular art" (and to secular thought) "emotional spheres which had hitherto been the preserve of religious worship" (p. 188).

Panofsky rarely comes forth with aesthetic value judgments, and thus an occasional harsh remark such as the one on the Gundohinus manuscript (p. 49, note) attracts attention. Panofsky is a valiant defender of Renaissance art and of its classicism, and I tend to agree with his general attitude. Yet I am afraid that his statement that after the Renaissance "the classical element in our civilization could be opposed . . . but it could not entirely disappear again" (p. 108) sounds a bit too optimistic in view of contemporary developments. We have seen in our times many powerful forces that are more or less openly hostile to the heritage of the Renaissance, and even of classical antiquity: certain modern conceptions of "science," of "religion," and of "education" are quite incompatible with an appreciation of antiquity or of the Renaissance, and so are the antihistorical tendencies inherent in the philosophy of language, in structural linguistics, or in "new" criticism. The same is true, in an entirely different way, of existentialism and of primitivism. If an admirer of contemporary art can write that "the ancient civilisations of Greece and Rome... made a violent and lamentable break with the past" (E. Langui, Fifty Years of Modern Art, New York, 1959, p. II), the classical tradition in art, as in other fields, seems to be in a defensive, if not in a hopeless, position indeed. I am afraid its defenders are fighting a rear guard action, and the best they can hope for is to be the forerunners of a future  Renaissance, as were the mediaeval proto-humanists. 

The most impressive feature of this book is the variety of its problems which extend from the early Middle Ages to the fifteenth century, and from the  visual arts into literature, philosophy, and the sciences.  Among the historians of art, Panofsky is the most authoritative scholar who conceives of his subject as a part and facet of the broader field of intellectual and  cultural history, and who thus also instructs and inspires  through his work those who are interested in other aspects of cultural history. For he conceives of the visual arts as a part of a universe of culture that also comprises the sciences, the philosophical and religious thought, the literature and scholarship of the Western  world in the various phases of its history. This is the  kind of “true humanism” of which we are badly in  need, and in spite of our present grim outlook, there  is some hope for the future of our civilization as long as  its cause is being upheld by scholars of Panofsky’s  caliber.

The "new critics", rebelled against "history of ideas"; the "new historicists"... "You put chocolate in my peanut butter!" to 'Why not both?". Panofsky who called the new critics "harmless" at best (with discussion of Joseph Raz—everything circles around to the same issues).

This goes back the the reason the old German humanists had contempt for the hard sciences. Looking back I found this, from 2014. It has Panofsky, Grafton, behaving as I suppose he always has, and Ukraine too. On C.P. Snow and The Two Cultures, from 2013

Somewhere I've said that I had only a general idea—fully internalized—of the history of tension between humanism and the sciences, before a woman I know whose grandfather had been one of Habermas' thesis advisors referred casually "the old contempt", which explained Panofsky's reference to his sons, a physicist and an atmospheric scientist as "plumbers", and Arendt's hatred for social science, with the only religious belief required, "just that self-evident religio without which there is no desire for knowledge, not even the desire for atheism." (Hermann Broch). In the Anglosphere in the 1950s, that history was already forgotten, though perhaps there was nothing to forget. But hearing her comment everything came together, including my own parents' unresolved and unacknowledged conflicts. I've never found a discussion of the antagonism in German intellectual life in English, just as I've never read mention of the the Jewish humanists disdain for Zionism. The leftists were the Zionists: the enthusiasts. And Adorno was terrified of instrumentalism because he though somehow it was scientifically justified. And it isn't.   

Humanism, in the largest sense, means that every human activity, including language and mathematics, is an aspect of "culture", so there's no conflict between writing about Mozart or Muzak, provided you accept that there's a distinction between Plato and your moralizing high school Latin teacher. A humanist who reads Plato reads Aristophanes. The conflict between sympathy and understanding is one of the burdens and pleasures of adulthood. Panofsky shrugged of the new critics, not out of a defense of history as such, but as the shallow version of a tendency towards the institutionalization of one technique over another. 

Raymond Klibansky

Although he took a keen interest in the great British philosophers - he later discovered and edited some new letters by Hume - he shared Cassirer's dismay at the blinkered approach of the analytical philosophers who dominated the Oxford scene: ignoring the historical context of thinkers such as Leibniz, the only thing they wanted to know was whether his statements were true according to their own criteria.

Klibansky, Panofsky, and Saxl. They even wrote a book. Christopher Wood wrote a review of the new edition, for October/Vogue. He even refers to "Panofsky’s tragic, existential reading" of Durer's Melancholia. So much for optimism.

Emile Langui, Fifty Years of Modern Art. Modernism as anti-humanist. I should buy a copy.

Frank Stella: "I wrote my thesis on Celtic, Carolingian and Ottoman manuscript illumination."

Back to Jäger, et al.: "causal dodge".  The responses even include a recommendation of Healy's "Fuck Nuance", from a player from the Berggruen Institute. Nils Gilman himself is in the mix. 
And someone found the source. It begins with Sam Haselby, and it's worth noting that the two people who push back against academic utilitarianism are an Israeli and as Arab

I sent one of the assholes a reminder of the origins and mandate of the I.A.S. : the importance of "useless knowledge".  See also Turner on Jencks and Riesman, the rise of professionalism and the "academic ethic".

Only a student of culture could describe the mix of positivism and perversity of contemporary academia.
The Middle Ages accepted and developed rather than studied and restored the heritage of the past. They copied classical works of art and used Aristotle and Ovid much as they copied and used the works of contemporaries. They made no attempt to interpret them from an archaeological, philological or "critical" in short, from an historical, point of view. For, if human existence could be thought of as a means rather than an end, how much less could the records of human activity be considered as values in themselves.

In mediaeval scholasticism there is, therefore, no basic distinction between natural science and what we call the humanities, studia humaniora, to quote again an Erasmian phrase.  

And Henry Farrell will never change. Liam Kofi Bright and Osita Nwanevu are the new gen Matthew Yglesias, pundits of neoliberal happytalk. Blacks are the new Jews in American culture.

enough for now. I'm avoiding other things. But sloppy or not, this helps me think.

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