Lectures & Literary past

Into the White: The Renaissance Arctic and the End of the Image Book talk with Christopher P. Heuer


SAT—September 21—2 PM, free

Author Christopher P. Heuer joins Scandinavia House with Amy Knight Powell to discuss his new book Into The White: The Renaissance Arctic and the End of the Image. European narratives of the Atlantic New World tell stories of people and things: strange flora, wondrous animals, and sun-drenched populations for Europeans to mythologize or exploit. Yet between 1500 and 1700 one region upended all of these conventions in travel writing, science, and, most unexpectedly, art: the Arctic. Icy, unpopulated, visually and temporally “abstract,” the Far North — a different kind of terra incognita for the Renaissance imagination — offered more than new stuff to be mapped, plundered, or even seen. Neither a continent, an ocean, nor a meteorological circumstance, the Arctic forced visitors from England, the Netherlands, Germany, and Italy to grapple with what we would now call a “nonsite,” spurring dozens of previously unknown works, objects, and texts — and this all in an intellectual and political milieu crackling with Reformation debates over art’s very legitimacy.

Into the White uses five case studies to probe how the early modern Arctic (as site, myth, and ecology) affected contemporary debates of perception and matter, of representation, discovery, and the time of the earth — long before the nineteenth century romanticized the polar landscape. In the Far North, the Renaissance exotic became something far stranger than the marvelous or the curious, something darkly material and unmasterable, something beyond the idea of image itself.


Following the discussion, copies of the book will be available for purchase and signing. This discussion is a Brooklyn Book Festival Bookend event; Zone Books will be exhibiting publications the next day at the book festival at Booth #646.

“Moving fluently across time periods, and making a major contribution to conversations about globalism, art, and ecology, Heuer challenges the complacent understanding of ‘the global Renaissance’ and generates new ways of thinking across disciplinary boundaries.”— Rebecca E. Zorach, Northwestern University

“A rigorous and innovative study of sixteenth-century attitudes toward the Arctic, Into the White is broadly and seamlessly interdisciplinary —treating religion, environmental history, print history, book history, art history, navigational history, and philosophy —but never subordinates the visual,or treats images as mere illustrations of other concerns.”— Jennifer L. Roberts, Harvard University

About the Speakers

Christopher P. Heuer

Christopher P. Heuer is Associate Professor of Art History at the University of Rochester, author of The City Rehearsed, and coauthor of Ecologies, Agents, and Terrains and Vision and Communism. He is currently Bernard Berenson Fellow at I Tatti, the Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies in Florence.

Amy Knight Powell

Amy Knight Powell is Associate Professor of Art History at the University of Southern California and author of Depositions: Scenes from the Late Medieval Church and the Modern Museum.

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Online Programming from Scandinavia House
4-1-2020 to 9-1-2020