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Description - Vienna School Reader by Christopher S. Wood

This book introduces to an English-language audience the writings of the so-called New Vienna School of art history. In the 1930s Hans Sedlmayr (1896-1984) and Otto Pacht (1902-1988) undertook an ambitious extension of the formalist art historical project of Alois Riegl (1858-1905). Sedlmayr and Pacht began with an aestheticist conception of the autonomy and irreducibility of the artistic process. At the same time they believed they could read entire cultures and worldviews in the work of art. The key to this contextualist alchemy was the concept of "structure", a kind of deep formal property that the work of art shared with the world. Sedlmayr and Pacht's project immediately caught the attention of thinkers like Walter Benjamin who were similary impatient with traditional empiricist scholarship. But the new project had its dark side. Sedlmayr used art history as a vehicle for a sweeping critique of modernity that soon escalated into nationalist and outright fascist polemic, even while Pacht, a Jew, was forced into exile. Sedlmayr and the whole scholarly project of "Strukturanalyse" were sharply repudiated by Meyer Schapiro and later Ernst Gombrich. After an introductory essay, the book opens with two selections from Riegl. The next section includes two essays by Sedlmayr, two by Pacht and one each by Guido Kaschnitz-Weinberg and Fritz Novotny, all dating from the 1930s. The book closes with the divergent responses to Benjamin (1933) and Schapiro (1936). The difference of opinion between these two key voices raises again the question of the legitimacy and effectiveness of the method, and reveals the analogies betwen the New Vienna School project and the antiempiricist cultural histories of our own time. The book also contains an extensive bibliography.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9781890951153
ISBN-10: 1890951153
Format: Paperback
(229mm x 152mm x 38mm)
Pages: 488
Imprint: Zone Books
Publisher: Zone Books
Publish Date: 15-Aug-2003
Country of Publication: United States

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Author Biography - Christopher S. Wood

Christopher S. Wood is Professor in the Department of History of Art, Yale University. He is the author of Albrecht Altdorfer and the Origins of Landscape, and the editor of The Vienna School Reader: Politics and Art Historical Method in the 1930s (Zone Books, 2000).

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