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Why We Weep

Peter de Bolla: Looking and Feeling

6 March 2003
Pictures & Tears: A History of People Who Have Cried in Front of Paintings 
by James Elkins.
Routledge, 272 pp., £14.99, October 2001, 0 415 93713 2
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... aspect which seems to link it to affective responses to art. At first sight, then, it is surely a good idea to inquire into whether or not artworks do prompt emotive states, and this is what JamesElkins has done. Elkins, a professor at the Art Institute of Chicago, is the author of a good number of books on the visual arts, and is clearly an informed and sympathetic viewer. The New York Review of ...

Like Leather, like Snakes

Julian Bell: Vermeer and Leeuwenhoek

29 March 2017
Eye of the Beholder: Johannes Vermeer, Antoni van Leeuwenhoek and the Reinvention of Seeing 
by Laura Snyder.
Head of Zeus, 448 pp., £14.99, December 2016, 978 1 78497 025 3
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... dares ask him to look our way.Yet it ought not to be impossible. A prudent respecter of academic consensus, Snyder omits from her bibliography a 2009 monograph that is, according to the art historian JamesElkins, ‘the most comprehensive and detailed analysis ever published of Vermeer’ and ‘full of ideas that could fundamentally change the current understanding of his paintings’. Elkins, a ...

How did they get away with it?

Bernard Porter: Britain’s Atrocities in Kenya

3 March 2005
Histories of the Hanged: Britain’s Dirty War in Kenya and the End of Empire 
by David Anderson.
Weidenfeld, 406 pp., £20, January 2005, 0 297 84719 8
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Britain’s Gulag: The Brutal End of Empire in Kenya 
by Caroline Elkins.
Cape, 475 pp., £20, January 2005, 9780224073639
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... 150,000 and, according to official figures, killed around 12,000 in combat, though the real figure, in David Anderson’s view, is ‘likely to have been more than 20,000’. In addition, Caroline Elkins claims, up to 100,000 died in the detention camps. It is the scale of the British atrocities in Kenya that is the most startling revelation of these books. We always knew about the Mau Mau atrocities ...

Don’t look

Julian Bell: Perspective’s Arab Origins

25 October 2012
Florence and Baghdad: Renaissance Art and Arab Science 
by Hans Belting, translated by Deborah Lucas Schneider.
Harvard, 303 pp., £25, September 2011, 978 0 674 05004 4
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... excitement, and though his prose can sometimes be dense it never means to be mystifying. Nonetheless, his treatment of the gaze strikes me as the driest, most campus-bound aspect of the book. JamesElkins, a shrewd surveyor of art studies, remarked several years ago that the whole concept had become ‘both overdetermined (burdened by contradictory theories) and radically underdetermined (worn too ...

Why name a ship after a defeated race?

Thomas Laqueur: New Lives of the ‘Titanic’

24 January 2013
The Wreck of the ‘Titan’ 
by Morgan Robertson.
Hesperus, 85 pp., £8, March 2012, 978 1 84391 359 7
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Shadow of the ‘Titanic’ 
by Andrew Wilson.
Simon and Schuster, 392 pp., £8.99, March 2012, 978 1 84739 882 6
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‘Titanic’ 100th Anniversary Edition: A Night Remembered 
by Stephanie Barczewski.
Continuum, 350 pp., £15.99, December 2011, 978 1 4411 6169 7
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The Story of the Unsinkable ‘Titanic’: Day by Day Facsimile Reports 
by Michael Wilkinson and Robert Hamilton.
Transatlantic, 127 pp., £16.99, November 2011, 978 1 907176 83 8
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‘Titanic’ Lives: Migrants and Millionaires, Conmen and Crew 
by Richard Davenport-Hines.
Harper, 404 pp., £9.99, September 2012, 978 0 00 732166 7
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Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage 
by Hugh Brewster.
Robson, 338 pp., £20, March 2012, 978 1 84954 179 4
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‘Titanic’ Calling 
edited by Michael Hughes and Katherine Bosworth.
Bodleian, 163 pp., £14.99, April 2012, 978 1 85124 377 8
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... into pendants; in 1996 passengers on two luxury cruise ships paid $5000 each to watch on live TV what turned out to be an abortive attempt to raise an 11-ton section of the hull. The movie director James Cameron, fascinated with what he called the Everest of wrecks, filmed a dive that became part of his blockbuster 1997 movie (the footage was recently repurposed for a documentary). The new 3D version ...

Whatever you do, buy

Michael Dobson: Shakespeare’s First Folio

15 November 2001
The Shakespeare First Folio: The History of the Book Vol. I: An Account of the First Folio Based on Its Sales and Prices, 1623-2000 
by Anthony James​ West.
Oxford, 215 pp., £70, April 2001, 0 19 818769 6
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... was obsolete two and a half centuries ago. It is the increasingly fancy sums which this awkwardly assembled and unevenly printed volume has commanded which preoccupy the first volume of Anthony James West’s The Shakespeare First Folio: The History of the Book, and they provide a very remarkable instance of the interplay between literature and the market, prompting all sorts of reflections on ...

The sea is the same sea

Adam Shatz: Bibi goes to Washington

30 August 2018
Bibi: The Turbulent Life and Times of Benjamin Netanyahu 
by Anshel Pfeffer.
Hurst, 423 pp., £20, May 2018, 978 1 84904 988 7
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... Christian Arabs before the 1948 War. (A third son, Iddo, was born in 1952.) In 1963, the boys were uprooted when their father, convinced that he had been blacklisted by academia, moved the family to Elkins Park, a leafy suburb of Philadelphia. For a Revisionist family, leaving Israel was no small humiliation: Jews who emigrate are known as yordim, those who ‘go down’ (immigrants make aliyah and ...

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