Clement Greenberg's Modernism and the Bureaucratization of the Senses
Caroline Jones's magisterial study widens Greenberg's fundamental tenet of "opticality"-the idea that modernist art is apprehended through "eyesight alone"-to a broader arena, examining how the critic's emphasis on the specular resonated with a society increasingly invested in positivist approaches to the world. Greenberg's modernist discourse, Jones argues, developed in relation to the rationalized procedures that gained wide currency in the United States at midcentury, in fields ranging from the sense-data protocols theorized by scientific philosophy to the development of cultural forms, such as hi-fi, that targeted specific senses, one by one. Greenberg's attempt to isolate and celebrate the visual was one manifestation of a large-scale segmentation-or bureaucratization-of the body's senses. Working through these historical developments, Jones brings Greenberg's theories into contemporary philosophical debates about agency and subjectivity.
Eyesight Alone offers artists, art historians, philosophers, and all those interested in the arts a critical history of this generative figure, bringing his work fully into dialogue with the ideas that shape contemporary critical discourse and shedding light not only on Clement Greenberg but also on the contested history of modernism itself.
“Although Clement Greenberg’s criticism has inspired and provoked for more than a half-century, how Greenberg developed his critical model has never been adequately explained. In this sociohistorical examination of opticality, Caroline Jones contributes significantly to our understanding of the critic’s formation. Her book is the most ambitious account of Greenberg’s project to date.”--James Meyer, author of Minimalism: Art and Polemics in the Sixties
“No one has immersed themselves quite so deeply in the mind and world of Clement Greenberg as Caroline Jones, whose book is a passionate and pioneering effort to reconstruct a ‘lived modernism’ as it unfolded in the writings of its greatest art critic. Even more important is the way that Jones escapes mere immersion in Greenberg’s thought with her dazzling hypothesis of the ‘bureaucratization of the senses’ as the framework for the segregation of media and perceptual channels.”--W. J. T. Mitchell, author of What Do Pictures Want?: The Lives and Loves of Images
“Eyesight Alone is ambitious and convincing. It is a brilliant book: compellingly argued, riveting to read, sprawling in reach and length, and exhaustively researched.”--John O’Brian, author of Ruthless Hedonism: The American Reception of Matisse