Vanities of the Eye: Vision in Early Modern European Culture

Front Cover
OUP Oxford, Mar 29, 2007 - Art - 415 pages
Vanities of the Eye investigates the cultural history of the senses in early modern Europe, a time in which the nature and reliability of human vision was the focus of much debate. In medicine, art theory, science, religion, and philosophy, sight came to be characterised as uncertain or paradoxical - mental images no longer resembled the external world. Was seeing really believing? Stuart Clark explores the controversial debates of the time - from the fantasies and hallucinations of melancholia, to the illusions of magic, art, demonic deceptions, and witchcraft. The truth and function of religious images and the authenticity of miracles and visions were also questioned with new vigour, affecting such contemporary works as Macbeth - a play deeply concerned with the dangers of visual illusion. Clark also contends that there was a close connection between these debates and the ways in which philosophers such as Descartes and Hobbes developed new theories on the relationship between the real and virtual. Original, highly accessible, and a major contribution to our understanding of European culture, Vanities of the Eye will be of great interest to a wide range of historians and anyone interested in the true nature of seeing.

What people are saying - Write a review

We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.

Other editions - View all

About the author (2007)


Stuart Clark was born in 1942 in Marple, Cheshire. He studied at University of Wales, Swansea and at Cambridge. He was senior lecturer in the Department of History at UW Swansea from 1995-98 and then Professor from 1998 to the present. He has been a Member of the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, and Lilly Fellow at the National Humanities Centre, North Carolina. He was elected to the British Academy in 2000.

Bibliographic information