By David L Martin
Rembrandt's recognized portray of an anatomy lesson, the shrunken head of an Australian indigenous chief, an aerial view of Paris from a balloon: all are home windows to appeal, curiosities that light up anything shadowy and forgotten lurking in the back of the neat facade of a rational global. In Curious Visions of Modernity, David Martin unpacks a set of artifacts from the visible and old data of modernity, discovering in each one a slippage of clinical rationality--a repressed heterogeneity in the homogenized constructions of post-Enlightenment wisdom. In doing so, he exposes modernity and its visible tradition as haunted by means of accurately these issues that rationality sought to expunge from the "enlightened" global: appeal, magic, and wonderment. Martin strains the genealogies of what he considers 3 of the main specific and traditionally fast fields of contemporary visible tradition: the gathering, the physique, and the mapping of areas. In a story such as the many-drawered interest cupboards of the Renaissance instead of the locked glass situations of the trendy museum, he exhibits us a global renewed throughout the act of accumulating the wondrous and aberrant gadgets of construction; tortured and damaged flesh emerging from the dissecting tables of anatomy theaters to stalk the discourses of clinical wisdom; and the spilling forth of a pictorializing geometry from the gilt frames of Renaissance panel work to venerate a panoptic god. Accounting for the visible disenchantment of modernity, Martin bargains a curious imaginative and prescient of its reenchantment.
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Additional resources for Curious Visions of Modernity: Enchantment, Magic, and the Sacred
He does this (largely) through the imposition of a modern subject position onto the figure of Aldrovandi, the result of which is a string of apologetic gestures. 78 Yet, as we will shortly see, the epistemological status of the monstrous was in no way incidental to Renaissance cosmology: what marked Aldrovandi as a Renaissance “man of science” was precisely his inclusion of the anomalous object; to suggest that it was merely a “knowing” tactic is to suggest that Aldrovandi occupied a position outside of discourse.
According to this narrative, all of these, if not in their day then certainly in later eras, belonged to a circuit of valuable and precious items, which continue to make them the worthy subject of histories of collection today. What is interesting about Pomian’s description of the items collected within the medieval church is the perfunctory nature of the first two categories he mentions: relics and natural curiosities. Either he deems them “unworthy” of being included in histories of church collections in the first place, or he believes that these two categories have been “valued” quite adequately by other authors already.
Seeking enchantment through the absence of modern typologies and systems of ordering merely defines the heterogeneous in terms of a lack; it suggests nothing of the excesses of the aberrant; nothing of the sacredness of wonder; and nothing, really, of the “curiosity” that led to the creation of the world in miniature through the prioritization of the singular and the monstrous. All it manages to achieve is the homogenization of the heterogeneous, imprinting the logic of the modern world onto the past.