Of cinema literature and architecture did not

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of cinema, literature, and architecture-did not coalesce into a program. Still, visual culture has become a presence on campus. It has worked its way into many of the traditional disciplines and lives there in suspended isolation, encapsulated within theoretical bubbles. The psycho- analytic bubble is the biggest, but there are others. One could list a common set of readings, a canon of texts by Barthes, Benjamin, Foucault, Lacan, as well as a precanon of texts by a long list of contemporary writers. Certain themes are standard: the reproduction of the image, the society of the spectacle, envisioning the Other, scopic regimes, the simulacrum, the fetish, the (male) gaze, the machine eye. Today the phrase "visual studies" calls up 202 entries in a keyword search at the Cornell University Libraries. There is a media library, a cinema program, an art museum, a theater arts center, two slide libraries, and a half dozen possessively guarded, department-owned videocassette play- ers. If the theoretical bubbles burst, there remains this infrastructure of technological reproduction. Visual cul- ture, once a foreigner to the academy,
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30 has gotten its green card and is here to stay. Silent movies at the beginning of the century initiated the utopian idea of a universal language of images, one that could glide over political and ethnic borders, and set to right the Tower of Babel. Action films and MTV at the end of the cen- tury have realized this idea in secularized, instrumentalized form, producing subjects for the next stage of global capitalism. In this way, visual culture becomes the concern of the social sciences. "Images in the mind motivate the will," wrote Benjamin, alluding to the political power of images claimed by Surrealism. But his words could provide the motto as well for the advertising industry, product sponsoring, and political campaign- ing, whereas today the freedom of expression of artists is defended on formal grounds that stress the virtual- ity of the representation. The images
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