About

W. J. T. Mitchell is Professor of English and Art History at the University of Chicago. He is editor of the interdisciplinary journal, Critical Inquiry, a quarterly devoted to critical theory in the arts and human sciences. A scholar and theorist of media, visual art, and literature, Mitchell is associated with the emergent fields of visual culture and iconology (the study of images across the media). He is known especially for his work on the relations of visual and verbal representations in the context of social and political issues. Under his editorship,  Critical Inquiry has published special issues on public art, psychoanalysis, pluralism, feminism, the sociology of literature, canons, race and identity, narrative, the politics of interpretation, postcolonial theory, and many other topics. He has been the recipient of numerous awards including the Guggenheim Fellowship and the Morey Prize in art history given by the College Art Association of America. In 2003, he received the University of Chicago’s prestigious Faculty Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching. His publications include: “The Pictorial Turn,” Artforum, March 1992; “What Do Pictures Want?” October, Summer 1996; What Do Pictures Want? (2005); The Last Dinosaur Book: The Life and Times of a Cultural Icon (1998); Picture Theory (1994); Art and the Public Sphere (1993); Landscape and Power (1992); Iconology (1987); The Language of Images (1980); On Narrative (1981); and The Politics of Interpretation (1984).  During his editorship, Critical Inquiry has published issues on canon-formation, gender, race and writing, public art, politics and poetic value, metaphor, psychoanalysis, identity politics, pluralism, new directions in art history, questions of evidence, and many other special topics.

Professor Mitchell has twice served as a Professor at the School of Criticism and Theory (Northwestern, 1983; Dartmouth, 1990), and he has lectured at universities and art museums throughout the United States, as well as in Europe and the Far East.  Recent special teaching assignments include a Mellon Faculty Seminar at Tulane University, a seminar on Romanticism at Beijing Foreign Studies University in China, an NEH Summer Seminar for College Teachers at the University of Chicago, a post as Canterbury Visiting Fellow at Canterbury University, New Zealand, a visiting professorship at the Institute for Art History, Aarhus, Denmark, and two visiting professorships at the Institute for Fine Arts and English Department at New York University in 1998 and 2000.  The South African Council for Scientific Development sponsored his lectures in Capetown, Durban, and Johannesburg in the summer of 1997, and Duke University invited him to give the Benenson Lectures in Art History in the spring of 2000.  In the spring of 2002 he was awarded the Berlin Prize Fellowship to the American Academy in Berlin, and in the fall of 2002 he delivered the Alfonso Reyes Lectures in Mexico City.   Other recent lectures include the W. E. B. Du Bois lectures at Harvard, and the Patten Lectures at Indiana University. He was a a research fellow at the Clark Institute for Art History in the fall of 2008, and received the MLA’s 2006 James Russell Lowell Prize in Language and Literature for What Do Pictures Want?.   His recent publications include two books: Cloning Terror: The War of Images, September 11 to Abu Ghraib, and Critical Terms in Media Studies (with Mark Hansen).  Seeing Through Race, was published by Harvard University Press in the spring of 2012, followed closely in the spring of 2013 by Occupy: Three Inquiries in Disobedience, co-authored with Michael Taussig and Bernard Harcourt.  He is currently working on a new book, Seeing Madness:  Insanity, Media, and Visual Culture.

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