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Nonfiction in Brief

RETHINKING ART HISTORY: Meditations on a Coy Science by Donald Preziosi (Yale University Press: $30; 269 pp.)

October 29, 1989|K. I. Fakih

The main thrust of Donald Preziosi's probe into the discipline of art history is the problem of frames. In a labyrinth of perspectives from which to view a work of art, no one privileged position can encompass all, and deliver an objective and detached observation. The search within and without the frame is all but exhausted, according to Preziosi, and art historians would do better to gaze upon, and rethink, the frame itself.

Preziosi maintains that the domain of our observations in these arenas of knowledge-as-power is already "formatted" by their corresponding cognitive structures; and, "challenged to find and locate the unity in works, we inevitably find our own unity."

"A kind of department store of methodological options" is the author's description of his academic discipline of art history, and interested lay persons may agree. It would take a patient, dedicated reader to carry the author's declarations beyond the realm of art history to a wider world view--which is clearly Preziosi's intent--but certainly his insightful ruminations inspire such dedication. A terse overview of the field, Preziosi's worthwhile endeavor is for the serious general reader, whose curiosity outweighs his fear of jargon.

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