Image Studies

Image Studies

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KEYWORDS: Iconology / Iconoclast / Iconoclasm / Iconophile / Iconophilia / Iconophobia / Idolatry / Imagefare / Image Studies / Imageology / Imagist / Imagistic / Interdisciplinary

ICONOLOGY is the academic discipline of the study of images in art and their meanings, within cultural, social, and historical milieux. The terms ‘iconology’ and ‘iconography’ are often interchanged. Erwin Panofsky  defines iconography as ‘a description and classification of images’, and iconology as ‘an iconography turned interpretive’. Aby Warburg used ‘iconography’ in his early work, replacing it later with ‘inconology, his particular method of visual interpretation being known as ‘critical iconology’. Ernst Gombrich defines iconology as doing for the image what linguistics has done for the word, whilst W.J.T. Mitchell writes that iconology is a study of ‘what to say about images’,  and of ‘what images say’.

ICONOCLAST is the term traditionally applied to one who opposes orthodoxy and religion as being erroneous or pernicious, or based on superstition. There may also be a political motive for this opposition. it is used more specifically for those who physically destroy religious images and representations, originating from the Greek  eikon (image) + klastes (breaker).

ICONOCLASM is the act of destruction of images, for the reasons outlined above. Religious iconoclasm is often the result of sectarian disputes between factions of the same religion; the destruction of religious icons by a group with another religion or culture is not generally considered as iconoclasm. Political iconoclasm often accompanies revolution or regime change, with the very public act of destruction of statues and monuments identified with the previous regime. These two types of iconoclasm are often inextricably linked, as seen recently in Iraq, for example.  

ICONOPHILE is one who worships icons. A more contemporary definition of iconophile is that of a lover of images of all kinds.

ICONOPHILIA is the love of icons or images.

ICONOPHOBIA is the fear, mistrust or even hatred of icons or images.

IDOLATRY is the worship of the physical representation of a god and is forbidden in all the Abrahamic religions. Catholicism embraces idolatry and uses representations of God in worship, whereas in the Protestant religion God cannot be represented as such by icons. Idolatry has also come to mean the blind or excessive devotion to something or someone, such as happens within celebrity and popular culture.

IMAGEFARE is the use of images as a substitute for traditional military means to achieve political objectives. It is arguably a successful methodology for the information age, where strategically placed networked images can rapidly progress in terms of popularity and critical impact, overturning previous images in military fashion.

IMAGE STUDIES seeks to offer critical frameworks within which interdisciplinary research on images can take place. In the last decade or so, alongside developments in visual culture studies, image studies – if not fully established in institutional terms – has taken up its place within intellectual debates and scholarship. It is a rapidly expanding field of study that poses questions such as ‘what is an image?’; ‘what is it that images do?’; ‘what do we do with images?’ and ‘how does engagement with images differ from that with words?’ These questions obviously pertain to the place of the image in culture, and image studies is an important focus in visual culture studies. However, W. J. T. Mitchell distinguishes between the two fields. He argues that visual culture studies ‘ is not the same thing as image studies, and that the study of the visual image is just one component of the larger field.’ (see Visual Culture/Visual Studies: Inventory of Recent Definitions)

IMAGEOLOGY is the study of images. It is a term often used when referring to scientific images.

IMAGIST is one who practices imagism, which is considered to be the first organized Modernist literary movement in the English language. The Imagists rejected the sentiment and discursiveness typical of much Romantic and Victorian poetry in favour of precision of imagery through clear and unadorned language.

IMAGISTIC is the adjective pertaining to imagism.

INTERDISCIPLINARY practices involve working across two or more established academic disciplines or fields, combining them into one activity. Although interdisciplinary and interdisciplinarity are often perceived as twentieth century terms, the concept has historical antecedents in Greek philosophy.

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