The Object Stares Back (Harvest Book)

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9780156004978: The Object Stares Back (Harvest Book)

At first it appears that nothing could be easier than seeing. We just focus our eyes and take in whatever it is before us. This ability seems detached, efficient, and rational--as if the eyes were competent machines telling us everything about the world without distorting it in any way. Using drawings, paintings, diagrams, and photographs to illustrate his points, Elkins raises intriguing questions and offers astonishing perception about the nature of vision.

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This is a meditation on vision. I am especially interested in the idea that seeing is automatic, and that the world is just there to be seen.It seems to me that seeing is very hard to understand: it is partly unconscious, and it is bound up with desire and fear. How, for example, do we see faces? Do we look at a face in the same way as we touch it, moving up and down, following its contours? If the face is frightening, do we look at it in a way that is different from touching? The book brings a number of disciplines to bear on these kinds of questions, including art history, neurobiology, cognitive pscyhology, experiments on animal vision and machine vision, and psychoanalysis. I have taken examples freely from different fields, including medical illustration, fine art, manuals of cosmetics, medieval icons, paleontology, microscopy, physical chemistry, travel illustration, mathematics. The purpose is to ask questions about vision, and to show how little we know about how we see.

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