Cloth $50.00 ISBN: 9780226770512 Published June 2007
Paper $32.50 ISBN: 9780226770529 Published October 2008

Echo Objects

The Cognitive Work of Images

Barbara Maria Stafford

Barbara Maria Stafford

296 pages | 14 color plates, 92 halftones | 8-1/2 x 9-7/8 | © 2007
Cloth $50.00 ISBN: 9780226770512 Published June 2007
Paper $32.50 ISBN: 9780226770529 Published October 2008
Barbara Maria Stafford is at the forefront of a growing movement that calls for the humanities to confront the brain’s material realities. In Echo Objects, she argues that humanists should seize upon the exciting neuroscientific discoveries that are illuminating the underpinnings of cultural objects. In turn, she contends, brain scientists could enrich their investigations of mental activity by incorporating phenomenological considerations—particularly the intricate ways that images focus intentional behavior and allow us to feel thought.
           
As a result, Echo Objects is a stunningly broad exploration of how complex images—or patterns that compress space and time—make visible the invisible ordering of human consciousness. Stafford demonstrates, for example, how the compound formats of emblems, symbols, collage, and electronic media reveal the brain’s grappling to construct mental objects that are redoubled by prior associations. In contrast, she shows that findings in evolutionary biology and the neurosciences are providing profound opportunities for understanding aesthetic conundrums such as the human urge to imitate and the role of narrative and nonnarrative representation.
           
 Ultimately, she makes an impassioned plea for a common purpose—for the acknowledgement that, at the most basic level, these separate projects belong to a single investigation.
 
“Heroic. . . . The larger message of Stafford’s intense, propulsive prose is unassailable. If we are to get much further in the great puzzle of ‘binding’—how the perception of an image, the will to act on intention, or the forging of consciousness is assembled from the tens of thousands of neurons firing at any one moment in time—then there needs to be action on all fronts.”—Science

Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts: Michelle Kendrick Memorial Book Prize
Won

Wayne State University Academy of Scholars: Thomas N. Bonner Award
Won

View Recent Awards page for more award winning books.
Antonio Damasio, author of Descartes’ Error , Looking for Spinoza , and The Feeling of What Happens

Echo Objects: The Cognitive Work of Images, is a spectacular effort of thinking outside discipline boundaries, a sort of interdenominational bible of arts and neuroscience. It is all the more remarkable since the book appears to have required no effort at all, so smoothly and seamlessly it flows from Barbara Stafford’s well-informed mind and dizzying pen.”

Andy Clark, author of Natural-Born Cyborgs: Minds, Technologies, and the Future of Human Intelligence

“Inspiring and rewarding, Echo Objects displays great learning and an uncommon ability to straddle genres and disciplines, often to kaleidoscopic effect. At the center of all that colorful flux lies Barbara Stafford’s acute critical intelligence, snuggled like a sniper in a jungle. Cognitive scientists, as well as those working in the arts and humanities, have much to learn from this unique and thought-provoking work.”

William J. Mitchell, author of Placing Words: Symbols, Space, and the City

Echo Objects is an erudite, sophisticated, pioneering exploration of the ways in which modern neuroscience illuminates the world of images, and of the insights that careful, critical analysis of images can provide to neuroscience. It makes many compelling observations, and opens up numerous questions for further investigation and debate.”

James J. Bono, author of The Word of God and the Languages of Man

Echo Objects argues vigorously for a new understanding of images: one that regards them not simply as products of mental operations but as constitutive of such operations and cognitive processes. This book bristles with ideas and innovative connections that draw together cultural, material, and biological analyses of thought and cognition to prod the reader into rethinking the uses and significance of images. Echo Objects is a book to wrestle and argue with. It will draw each reader into a conversation that will prove important, and for many transformative—a conversation that goes to the heart of the importance of the arts and humanities and to the role they play in understanding science, cognition, and images themselves.”<James J. Bono, author of The Word of God and the Languages of Man>

Caroline A. Jones | Science
"A heroic book that inlays biology and culture within each other. . . . Echo Objects challenges scientists to leap to more engaging conclusions, by offering them access to the tools of visual analysis, close reading, and reception theories that art history has honed for over a century. . . . The larger message of Stafford’s intense, propulsive prose is unassailable. If we are to get much further in the great puzzle of 'binding'—how the perception of an image, the will to act on intention, or the forging of consciousness is assembled from the tens of thousands of neurons firing at any one moment in time—then there needs to be action on all fronts."
History & Philosophy of Life Sciences
"A contribution to the growing set of literature expounding the crucial importance of the contemporary neurosciences to scholarship in the humanities."
Susan Stuart | Journal of Consciousness Studies
"Stafford's aim is to 'insert the cognitive work of images more centrally' into the enterprise of cognitive science. She achieves her goal and a great deal more besides."
Julain Bell | London Review of Books
"In conception, Echo Objects is easily the most exciting demonstration yet of how a neuroaesthetics might shape up. Crucially, this is a thrilling book to look into: reaching for an astonishing range of often recherché visual material, Stafford thinks with an artist's eye abou the cross-cultural affinities that indicate patterns of thought common to the whole human species."
Pragmatics & Cognition

“The wealth of ideas in this book, which sometimes seem disconnected, turns out to be a beautiful chain of up-to-date-cum-ancient jewelry. . . . Echo Objects proves to be a creative, innovative, very interesting, and rewarding work.”

Contents
List of Illustrations
Acknowledgements

INTRODUCTION

1. Form as Figuring It Out: Toward a Cognitive History of Images

2. Compressive Compositions: Emblem, Symbol, Symbiogenesis

3. Mimesis Again! Inferring from Appearances

4. Primal Visions: The Geography of Interiority

5. How Patterns Meet: From Representation to Mental Representation

6. Impossible Will? Unconscious Organization, Conscious Focus

CODA: REVERBERATIONS

Notes
Index
For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu
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