Booklist  | Author’s Overview | Translations | Exhibitions/Catalogues|Edited Volume |Articles


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Symbol and Myth: Humbert de Superville’s Essay on Absolute signs in Art. Cranbury, NJ: Associated University Presses, 1979.

Voyage into Substance: Art, Science, Nature and the Illustrated Travel Account, 1760-1840. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 1984.

Body Criticism: Imaging the Unseen in Enlightenment Art and Medicine. Cambridge, MA, and London: MIT Press, 1991.

Artful Science: Enlightenment, Entertainment and the Eclipse of Visual Education. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1994.

Good Looking: Essays on the Virtue of Images. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1996.

Visual Analogy: Consciousness as the Art of Connecting. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1999.

Devices of Wonder: From the World in a Box to Images on a Screen, (coauthor Frances Terpak) Catalog for an exhibition held at The Getty Research Institute for the History of Art and the Humanities, November 13, 2001 to February 6, 2002. (Getty Research Institute, 2001).

Beyond Productivity: Information Technology, Innovation, and Creativity, (contributor as member of the Committee on Information Technology and Creativity) William J. Mitchell, Alan S. Inouye, and Marjory S. Blumenthal, Editors, , Washington D.C.: National Academy Press, 2003.

Echo Objects: The Cognitive Work of Images. Chicago, IL, University of Chicago Press, 2007.

A Field Guide to a New Metafield: Bridging the Humanities-Neurosciences Divide. University of Chicago Press, 2011.

Ribbon of Darkness: Inferencing from the Shadowy Arts and Sciences {Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2019]

author overview

From Body Criticism: (pp. 41-45)

“As demonstrated in Symbol and Myth, David Pierre Giottin Humbert de Superville’s (1770-1849) pioneering semiotics represented a systematic attempt to arrive at the unconditional. Like many of the artist-theorists of his generation, he desired to image the unimageable, whether located in the distant past or in the intangible present. To that end, he developed a universal hermeneutics of root lines, colors, and vectors. This scheme still remains fundamental to any understanding of the visionary and geometric strain of Romantic abstraction and of fin-de-siècle Symbolism. … Humbert’s system was also in advance of the general theory of semiotics devised in the mid-nineteenth century by Charles Saunders Peirce. It further adumbrated early twentieth-century emblematic totemism, developed by Emile Durkheim … [and] anticipated the French Structuralist anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss’s method of abstracting from individuals. … Not unlike Coleridge or Blake, Humbert heroically, and in face of a rampant British associationism, attempted to expose the enduring elements of cultural and social life.””Symbol and Myth also prefigures [Body Criticism] in another important way. It contains an interpretation of the body as a system of abstractable signs absolutely inscribed, and thus clearly legible, in a vast corpus of ancient and modern monuments.””One of my goals in Voyage into Substance was to look at nature from within, from its own animated internal perspective as an autonomous creating agency. This vitalist view stood in opposition to the anthropocentric rational examination of nature from without, analyzed as a mechanical or dead machine. The growth of experimental science during the Enlightenment emphasized visual evidence, demonstration of function, and actual trials or practice. Thus it provides a salutary physical countermodel to the hegemony of the mental and the conceptual in all spheres of existence. This corporeal or physiological form of knowing was grounded in handling, in the frank manipulation of materials, and in the pleasure and discoveries of sight. … A major intention ofVoyage into Substance was to show that a Baconian empirical tradition offered different outlooks upon, and possible solutions to, both ancient and modern dilemmas. … Voyage further [exposes] the eighteenth century desire to capture the imperceptible.””Just as Symbol and Myth recuperated the visible, “unconditional” sign language of ancient monuments, and Voyage into Substancetraced the emergence of self-picturing natural hieroglyphics, so Body Criticism focuses on key pictorial strategies for externalizing the internal. The difficulties of imaging the body illuminate that supreme representational problem: how does one seize the liquid inner and outer of things? How do we gain visual knowledge and come to imaginatively possess all that cannot be consumed, or subsumed, by words? [Body Criticism], therefore, should be seen as rounding out a trilogy, one whose dominant theme has been the increasing visualization of knowledge in the modern period.”

From Visual Analogy:

“[Visual Analogy forms] what has now been a long-term project of mine to put art history (or imaging, as I prefer) at the center of the major intellectual issues of our times. Body Criticism located the new medical imaging technologies of transparency within the larger ambit of early modern representational strategies. Artful Science addressed the rhetoric of corruption swirling around infotainment and suggested that, learning from the past, we could reinvent a delightful, sensory-based education. Good Lookingwrestled with the digital revolution and proposed the formulation of an aesthetical ethics for the Internet. With Visual Analogy, I want to place imaging and imagists in the middle of the philosophical, neurobiological, and cognitive science debates surrounding the nature of Consciousness.”

From Reviews:

Stafford’s comments on “Devices of Wonder”, placing it in the context of current debates, are available at

A review by Michael Punt, “The Transdiciplinary Wunderkamer,” in Leonardo /(Leonardo Digital Reviews) (January 2002) speaks to the relationships between Visual Analogy and Devices of Wonder and the broader issues they raise.


Body Criticism, republished in Japanese.

Body Criticism, Chapter IV republished in French: “De la marque. L’illustration de l’invisible dans les arts et la médecine à l’age des Lumières”, La Part de l’Oeil 11, pp177-237 (1995)

Artful Science, republished in German and Japanese.

Good Looking: Essays on the Virtue of Images, Tokyo (Sanyo, 2005) republished in Japanese.

Echo Objects: The Cognitive Work of Images to be republished in Japanese.


Vision: I Imagine, I See, I Make, Georgia Institute of Technology, 2011

Imaging the Body: From Fragment to Total Display, Art Institute of Chicago, Department of Prints and Drawings, 1992

Metaphors of Biological Structure/Architectural Construction, Ryerson and Burnham Libraries, Art Institute of Chicago, 1992

Depth Studies: Illustrated Anatomies from Vesalius to Vicqd’Azyr, The David and Alfred Smart Museum of Art, 1992.

Micromegalia: From Monumental Machines to Nano Devices, Eve Andrée Laramée: A Permutational Unfolding, MIT List Visual Arts Center, 1998.

Co-curator, with Frances Terpak, for exhibition project and catalogue, Devices of Wonder: From the World in a Box to Images on a Screen, The Getty Research Institute for the History of Art and the Humanities, November 13, 2001 to February 6, 2002.

Planning Committee for an exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago Architecture for the New Millenium, Art Institute of Chicago, 2004.

edited volumes

page cover of book Controversial

Controversial Bodies:Thoughts on the Public Display of Plastinated Corpses, Edited by John D. Lantos, Johns Hopkins University Press

The Blackwell Companion to the Enlightenment. (with John W. Yolton, Roy Porter, and Pat Rogers) Oxford; Basil Blackwell Ltd., 1991

European Cultures. Studies in Literature and the Arts (with Walter Pape and Elinor Shaffer); Berlin: DeGruyter, 1993

Advances in Visual Semiotics, consulting editor, Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 1995.

Reflecting Senses. Perception and Appearances in Literature, Culture and the Arts. Berlin: DeGruyter, 1995. (A joint project of the Research Group on Aesthetic Illusion, University of California Humanities Institute).

recent essays

“Postscript: What more can museum architecture do?” in John Peponis, et. al.,  Museum Configurations: An inquiry into the design of spatial syntaxes.

“Art/Science: Visualizing the Structure of Analogy,” Catalogue Essay for Tim Otto Roth, Logical Fantasies Exhibition [Opening March 6, 2020] in Aachen: Ludwig Forum fuer Internationale Kunst. Also in German: “Die Sichtbarmachung der Struktur der Analogie.”

“Field-Trip Atmospherics: The Enfleshing of Ekphrasis,” in John Peponis, et. al.,  Architecture-Description-Depiction. A Studio 

“Art/Science: Visualizing the Structure of Analogy,” in Tim Otto Roth,  Aura Calculata,  exh. cat. {Aschaffenburg: Jesuiten Kirche, June 2019}.

Report,  Georgia Institute of Technology {ARCH 8866: “Design + Space +Syntax,” Feb. 2019}.

“The Ultimate Conjuncture: What Shadows the Brain-Mind Merger, New Formations: Special Issue: Conjuncture, ed. by Lynda Dyson and Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe [Winter 2017]

“Can Gems Be Imbued with Theory of the Mind? Mystery Color and Intuitive Thought?” Art Jewelry Forum [AJF] [Fall 2017]

“From Communicable Matter to Incommunicable ‘Stuff’: Extreme Combinatorics and the Return of Ineffability,” in Ineffability: An Exercise in Comparative Philosophy of Religion, ed. By Timothy D. Knepper and Leah E. Kalmanson [Springer International Publishing AG, Cham, 2016].

“’Black and Glittering”: The Inscrutable Sublime,” in Contemporary Visual Culture and the Sublime ed.  by Temeneuga Trifonova, in the Series: Routledge Advances in Art and Visual Studies  [ London; Routledge, 2017].

“Impossible to Name: Performing the Ineffable,” in Perception and Agency in Shared Spaces of Contemporary Art, ed. by Dawna Schuld and Cristina Albu [London: Routledge, 2017]


“Dark Wonder,” in exh. cat. for Mass MoCA, Explode the Day: An Inquiry into the Phenomena of Wonder,  curated and edited by Denise Markonish  [Mass MoCA and Prestel, 2016].

“Seizing Attention: Devices and Desires,” Oxford Art Journal, special issue onArt and Technology in Early-Modern Europe [39/2/ April 2016], Coda.

“The Jewel Game: Gems and Neuro-science,” Contemporary Jewelry in Perspective, ed. by Damian Skinner (NY: Lark/Art Jewelry Forum). 2013.

articles – 2004 on

* Indicates Stafford’s most significant articles.


‘Totally Visual?’ OP Art’s Neural Iconography and the Engineered Picture,” Catalogue of the American Art Collection: Columbus Museum of Art [Columbus: Ohio University Press, 2018].


 “Five Questions,” in

Images:  Five Questions,

 ed. by  Peer Bundgard, Aud Sissel Hoel, and Frederik Stjernfelt
[Vince Inc. Press, 2015].


“From Observant Eye to Non-Attentive I: The Camera as Cognitive Device,” in  See the Light. Photography, Perception, Cognition, ed. by Britt Salvesen [Munich, London, New York: Los Angeles County Museum/DelMonico Books-Prestel, 2016], pp. 206-207


“Lying Side by Side: Fitting Colour to Eros,” in Journal of the International Colour Association {December 2012}, I,  27-35.


“Transparency or the New Invisibility: The Business of Making Connections, in Imagining Organizations. Performative Imagery in Business and Beyond, ed. by Paolo Quattrone, Francois -Regis Puyou, and Nigel Thrift {New York and London: Routledge, 2011],pp. 16-27. “Reconceiving the Warburg Institute as Working Museum of Mind,” Common Knowledge, Special Issue on the Warburg Library
{July 2011]


“‘Totally Visual?’ OP Art’s Neural Iconography and the Engineered Picture,” in  American Collections Catalogue: Intersections (Columbus Museum of Art, 2010).

“The New Invisibility: The Business of Making Connections,” in Imagining Business, ed. by Paolo Quattrone  (Routledge, forthcoming)

“Still Deeper: The Non-Conscious Sublime or the Art and Science of Submergence,”  in The Art and Science of the Sublime, ed. by Roald Hoffmann and Ian Boyd White (New York and London: Oxford University Press, 2010.

“‘Self-Love Widens into All that Lives’: Mirror Neurons and the Performance of Reciprocity,” in Poetics Today, Special Issue on Exchange Values: Poetics and Cognitive Science  (Winter 2010)

“Obsessed with Noticing: Op Art as Something You Adjust to, Not Know,” Essay on Edna Andrade’s Turbo, “Intersections” Section in the American Collections Catalogue/  Columbia Museum of Art ( Columbus: Ohio State University Press, forthcoming 2010)


Review of “Neuroaesthetics, Neuroscientific Theory and Illustration from the Arts,” in Interdisciplinary Science Reviews [forthcoming 2009].

Essay in Sublime Art and Science, ed. by Roald Hoffmann and Ian Boyd White [Editions Unseld/ Suhrkamp Verlag, 2009].


“Compressed Forms: The Symbolic Compound as Emblem of Neural Synchrony,” in Emblematica, 16 (2008), pp. 1-25.


“Another Kind of Global Thinking: Commentary on The Art Seminar,” in Is Art History Global? ed. by James Elkins (New York: London: Routledge, 2007), pp. 184-188.

“From Genetic Perspective to Biohistory. The Ambiguities of Looking Down, Across, and Beyond”, in Biotechnology, Art, and Culture, ed. by Eduardo Kac (Cambridge, Mass. and London: MIT Press, 2007), pp. 373-386.

*“Self-Eugenics: The Creeping Illusionizing of Identity from Neurobiology to Newgenics,” in Eugenics Special Issue, New Formations, 50 (May 2007).

Review Essay, “Lasting Impressions,” A Review of Douglas Hofstadter’s I am a Strange Loop, for Perspectives in Biology and Medicine (forthcoming).


Interview/ Discussion of Hyperrealism (with Horst Bredekamp), in TATE ETC (January 2006)

.Essay-review “Working Minds,” Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 48(8), 2006.

“From Afore-to-After-Thought. Mirror Neurons and Guessing about Looks,” Public, special issue on Errata: The Cultural Productivity of Errors, Accidents, and Unforeseen Events (forthcoming June 2006)

* “Compressed Forms: The Symbol as Emblem of Neural Synchrony,” lead essay in Emblematica (Summer 2008).

* “Picturing Uncertainty: From Representation to Mental Representation,” in Refresh!Histrories of Media, Art, Science, and Technology, ed. by Oliver Grau (Cambridge, Mass., and London: MIT Press, 2006).


Excerpts from Voyage into Substance: Art, Science, Nature and the Illustrated Travel Account, 1760-1840, reprinted in Universal Experience: Art, Life and the Tourist’s Eye exhibition catalogue, ed., Francesco Bonami. Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, January 2005.

“Hedonics: Pleasure, Pain, and the Neurobiology of Feeling,” in n.paradoxa: international feminist art journal, vol. 15, Scientific Ethics/Aesthetics (January 2005).

“The Ineffable Allure of Hamantashen,” The Great Debate: Latke or Hamentash? ed. by Ruth Cernea, 2005: The University of Chicago Press.

* “Romatic Systematics and the Genealogy of Thought. The Formal Roots of a Cognitive History of Images,” in Configurations, (Fall, 2005).

“Artificial Intensity: The Optical Technologies of Personal Reality Enhancement,” in Center or Margin: Revisions of the English Renaissance ed by. Lena Cowen Orlin. Selinsgrove, PA: Susquehanna University Press (in cooperation with Associated University Presses), 2005.

“The Englightenment ‘Catholization’ of Projective Technology, Theurgy and the Media Origins of Art,” in Histoire de l’histoire de l’art au XIXe siecle, eds. Roland Recht and Philippe Senechal. Paris: College de France, 2005.

“Die ‘Katholisiering’ der Projektionstechnologie im Zeitalter der Aufklärung. Theurgie und die medialen Ursprünge der Kunst,” in Kunstkammer, Laboratorium, Buehne. Schauplaetze des Wissens im 17. Jahrhundert, ed. by Helmar Schramm, Ludger Schwarte, Jan Lazardzig (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2005).

“Hedonics” and “Neurodynamics” in Abecedarius of the Sensorium, Exhibition Catalogue, Caroline A. Jones, ed. Cambridge, MA: MIT University Press 2005.

“Mens-Incognita: Landfalls on an Invisible Interior,” in ATOPIA Net Magazine (,), Island No. 8: “Terra Incognita” (October 2005).

“Pain Under Pane,” reprinted in The Alternative to What? Thread Waxing Space and the 90s, ed. by Lia Gangitano and Esme Watanabe. MAT Foundation, Forthcoming.

* “The Remaining 10%: The Role of Sensory Knowledge in the Age of the Self-Organizing Brain,” in Visual Literacy, ed. by James Elkins (New York: Routledge, 2005).


“Levelling the New Old Transcendence: Cognitive Coherence in the Era of Beyondness,” New Literary History, 35, Special Issue on Coherence (Spring, 2004) pp. 321-338.

Cameo appearance in “Inhaling the Spore: A Journey through The Museum of Jurassic Technology”, a film by Leonard Feinstein, 2004

“Gestalten des Abgleichs,” in Aesthetik- Hermeneutic-Neurowissenschaft, Heidelberger Gadamer-Symposium des Istituto Italiano per gli Studi Filosofici, eds. Olaf Breidbach and Giuseppe Orsi (Munster: Lit Verlag, 2004), pp. 89-114.

“Neuronale Ästhetik-Auf dem Weg zu einer-Kognitiven Bildgeschichte.” Iconic Turn: Das neue Bild der Welt. Eds. Christa Maar and Hubert Burda. Cologne: DuMont Verlag, 2004. 103-125.

articles – 1995-2003

* Indicates Stafford’s most significant articles.

2003 “Plague Man” and “Anatomy Lesson,” in The Anatomy Lesson: Conversations With
Johannes de Ketham. Middletown, Connecticut: Robin Price, Printer and
Publisher, 2003..

“Wissensgesellschaft und Pictural Turn- Ist die Wissensgesellschaft eine Bildgesellschaft? Ein Gesprach mit Stefan Iglhaut und Thomas Spring,” Interview with Horst Bredkamp, Science and Fiction (2003) exhibition catalogue, ed. Stephan Iglhaut and Thomas Spring (Berlin: Jovis, 2003).

English Translation: “Knowledge Society and Pictorial Turn–Is the Knowledge Society an Image Society,” exh. cat. Between Nanoworlds and Global Culture. Science + Fictions, interview with Horst Bredekamp, ed. by Stefan Iglhaut and Thomas Spring (Berlin: Jovis, 2004), pp. 63-83.


“Logic of Reconciliation”, Dokumenta 11 (2002) exhibition catalogue, ed. Okwui Enzewor (Kassel: Dokumenta, 2002.)


“Humanities in the Middle: Incorporating Information Technology,” Tableau. Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 2001. “Art in the Domain of Ambiguity,” Art Issues, no. 67 (March-April 2001),
pp. 24-29.

“Conceiving” (from Body Criticism), Collected Essays on the Grotesque in Modern Art, Cambridge University Press, December 2001.

“The Epiphanic Sublime,” in Sticky Sublime, ed. Bill Beckley (New York, Allworth Press, 2001).


“Seeing Double,” Art Issues, #59, May-June 1999, 22-26.


“Coldness,” Art Issues, March-April 1998, 24-27.

Educating Digerati, “A Range of Critical Perspectives: Digital Imagery and the Practices of Art History,” Arts Education Policy Review, July-August 1998.

“To Collage or E-Collage?” Harvard Design Magazine, Fall 1998, 35-36.

“Blur,” Art Issues, #55, November 1998, 18-22.


Contributor, Dutch Art: An Encyclopedia, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, January 31, 1997.

Passionate De-Scriptings. Review of Bruno Latour’s Aramis, or the Love of Technology, Art & Text, April 1997.

Noli me tangere, Art Issues, May 1997.

* Educating Digerati, “A Range of Critical Perspectives: Digital Imagery and the Practices of Art History,” Art Bulletin, June 1997, 214-216.

Escaping the Shallows: Making a Case for the Intelligence of Images, The Chronicle of Higher Education, June 1997, B6-B7.

“Gewalt und Naturgeschichte,” in “Vortage” aus, dem Warburghaus I (with Jurgen Habermas, Salvatore Settis, Herfried Munkler) (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1997), June 1997, 31-74.

“Wanting Shelter,” Commissioned essay for Cristina Iglesias exhibition catalogue, Guggenheim Museum of Art, New York, June 1997.


“Cross-Cortical Romance: Analogy, Art and Consciousness,” Art Issues (March/April 1996), 22-24.

“Display and the Rhetoric of Contamination,” Visualization in the Science, ed. by John Douard (Princeton University Press, 1996).

“From Plato’s Cave to the White Cube: On Images Meant to be Seen in the Dark,” Art Issues, November 1996.

Contributor, Naked to the Bone: Medical Imaging in the Twentieth Century, (Rutgers University Press, April 1996).


“The Critic’s Voice,” Sculpture Magazine, Special Issue (May-June 1995).

“De la marque. L’illustration de l’invisible dans les arts et la médecine à l’age des Lumières”, La Part de l’Oeil 11, pp177-237 (1995). (Chapter IV of Body Criticism.)

“Medical Ethics as Postmodern Aesthetics: Reflections on Biotechnological Utopia,” edited by Tokin Siebers Utopian Visions (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1995).

“Pain under Pane,” for exhibition Beyond Ars Medica, Thread Waxing Space, New York, November-January 1995-96.

articles – 1990-1994

* Indicates Stafford’s most significant articles.


“Instructive Games: Apparatus and the Experimental Aesthetics of Imposture,” Reflecting Senses, Perception and Appearance in Literature Culture, and the Arts, ed. by Walter Pape and Frederick Burwick. [2004]

“The Eighteenth-Century at the End of Modernity: towards the Re-Enlightenment,” in The Past Prologue, edited by Carla Hay (New York: AMS Press, Inc. 1994).

“Making Images Real: Toward a Pragmatic Aesthetics and an Applied Interdisciplinary,” The J. Paul Getty Trust Newsletter (Spring 1994).

“Presuming Images and Consuming Words: The Visualization of Knowledge from the Enlightenment to Postmodernism, ” Consumption and the World of Goods, John Brewer and Roy Porter (London: Routledge, 1993), 462-477.

“Images of Ambiguity: Eighteenth-Century Microscopy and the Neither/Nor, ” Visions of Empire: Voyages, Botany and Representations of Nature, Center for Seventeenth Century Studies, University of California, LA (Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 1993).

* “Voyeur or Observer? Enlightenment Thought on the Dilemmas of Display, ” Configurations, I (no. 1, 1992), 93-126.

“The Art of Conjuring, or How the Romantic Virtuoso learned from the Enlightened Charlatan,” Art Journal, 52 (Summer 1992).

“Present Image, Past Text, Post Body: Educating the Late Modern Citizen,” Guest Editorial, Semiotica, 91 (Fall 192), 195-198.

“Les idees ‘inees’: La conception winckelmannienne de la creation,” Winckelmann, ed. by Edouard Pommier (Paris: Reunion de musées nationaux, 1991), 137-160.

“Magnifications: The Eighteenth-Century Fortunes of a Primitive and Universal ‘Imagistic'” Scritti in ricordo di Giovanni Previtali, II, Prospecttiva, 57-60 ( April 1989-October 1990), 308-315.

* “Fantastic Images: From Unenlightening to Enlightening Appearances’ Meant to be Seen in the Dark,” Aesthetic Illusion, Frederick Burwick and Walter Pape (Berlin: De Gruyter, 1990), 158-179.

“Picturing the Invisible: Kenneth Snelson’s Portrait of an Atom,” Kenneth Snelson. The Nature of Structure, New York Academy of Sciences, California Museum of Science and Industry, and National Academy of Sciences (1989-1990), 51-57.