Review Cultures of Vision: Images, the Media, and the Imaginary
While there is certainly much to say about Burnett's book, I want to focus here on what I consider an essential and crucial question--why does Burnett's book seem to be more about language than image? Burnett's text spends an inordinate amount of time discussing language and the ways in which it fails or constrains us in our attempts to interpret images. He regards language as a constraint to a treatment of images that appreciates or takes into account their complexity. He sets text and image up as adversaries, and doesn't appear to offer his readers any solution or viable alternatives to what he believes is an inadequate means of interpreting an image.

Burnett's many references to "textual analysis" throughout the chapters clearly indicate an understanding of text and structure derived from New Critical, Formalist, and Structuralist theory. Burnett perceives texts as entities which contain finite interpretations; he views images derived from either photo or cinema as the opposite of text. Many of his efforts to articulate a theory of interpretation seem a reaction to what he calls the textualization of the image. He believes that if we interpret an image as text, and via text, than the properties of text (empirical, finite) supersede those of image (ambiguous, unclear) in the interpretation.

I'm not sure that Burnett offers his readers any solution or viable alternatives to text-based interpretation of images. After all, he does say that he does not want to claim that we can ever be outside of language, yet he believes that films and viewers undermine interpretative swchemes that are text-based or text-informed. I find it difficult to see how such an approach can promote a pedagogy of integration of text and image into a composed work.

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