Capture Speaker Series: Shep Steiner
Art historian and critic Shep Steiner suggests that we need to re-evaluate popular understandings of Roland Barthes’s influential and much-quoted text Camera Lucida. He posits Barthes’s book has largely escaped capture by its best and closest interpreters because they have not fully comprehended the problem that photography poses for memory.
By staying as close to the text as possible, by weighing the photograph’s negative effect on memory against the its life-affirming qualities, and by reading the raft of minor analytics relating to the punctum present in the text as a set of differential tensions toward the future, Steiner shows that Camera Lucida is structured on the logic of classical allegory. Further, with careful attention to the mirroric structure of the book, the exigencies of thematic criticism and the Winter Garden Photograph in particular as the crux of Barthes’s account, Steiner demonstrates the centrality of an incarnational model of language through which both allegory and Christian hermeneutics find their secular feet. Finally, Barthes’s incarnational language both defies modernity’s prohibition against futurity and looks back to its own ontological roots in the recognition of the mother’s face.