While the nondiscursive, frequently digressive character of the Mnemosyne-Atlas complicates any linear narrative of its themes and contents, Christopher D. Johnson traces several thematic sequences in the panels. By drawing on Warburg's published and unpublished writings and by attending to Warburg's cardinal idea that "pathos formulas" structure the West's cultural memory, Johnson maps numerous tensions between word and image in the Mnemosyne-Atlas. In addition to examining the work itself, he considers the literary, philosophical, and intellectual-historical implications of the Mnemosyne-Atlas. As Johnson demonstrates, the Mnemosyne-Atlas is not simply the culmination of Warburg’s lifelong study of Renaissance culture but the ultimate expression of his now literal, now metaphoric search for syncretic solutions to the urgent problems posed by the history of art and culture.
About the author
Christopher D. Johnson is Associate Professor of Comparative Literature at Harvard University. He is the author of Hyperboles: The Rhetoric of Excess in Baroque Literature and Thought.