Figures of History
Figures of History
Translated by Julie Rose

In this important new book the leading philosopher Jacques Rancière continues his reflections on the representative power of works of art. How does art render events that have spanned an era? What roles does it assign to those who enacted them or those who were the victims of such events?

Rancière considers these questions in relation to the works of Claude Lanzmann, Goya, Manet, Kandinsky and Barnett Newman, among others, and demonstrates that these issues are not only confined to the spectator but have greater ramifications for the history of art itself.

For Rancière, every image, in what it shows and what it hides, says something about what it is permissible to show and what must be hidden in any given place and time. Indeed the image, in its act of showing and hiding, can reopen debates that the official historical record had supposedly determined once and for all. He argues that representing the past can imprison history, but it can also liberate its true meaning.

Show More
Buy Now


Order Exam Copy

For Lecturers Only

More Info
  • September 2014
  • 112 pages
  • 130 x 199 mm / 5 x 8 in
Available Formats
  • Hardback $46.75
  • 9780745679563
  • Paperback $12.95
  • 9780745679570
  • Open eBook $10.00
  • 9780745681405
Table of Contents
The Unforgettable
1. In Front of the Camera Lens
2. Behind the Window
3. The Threshold of the Visible
4. In the Face of Disappearance

Senses and Figures of History
1. Of Four Senses of History
2. History and Representation: Three Poetics of Modernity
3. On Three Forms of History Painting
Films cited
About the Author
Jacques Rancière is a leading French philosopher and Professor
Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of Paris-St. Denis. His many books
include The Politics of Aesthetics, Aesthetics and Its Discontents and The
Future of the Image.
Show More


"As our world seems to continually move from one catastrophe to the next without a credible governing leadership, authors like Rancière... force us to conceive of politics differently."
LA Review of Books

“The equality of all before the light and the inequality of the little people as the great pass by are both written on the same photographic plate.” With this sentence, Jacques Rancière effectively aligns his conception of aesthetic theory as the always antagonistic distribution of the sensible under the sign of the demand for equality with the invention of photography. It is a beautiful and breathtaking conceit in what is, perhaps, the most beautiful of Rancière’s texts. His accounts here of the figures of history in photography, film, and painting generally - with dazzling accounts of particular works  - expand and deepen his aesthetic theory in intriguing ways. Indeed, I cannot imagine a more inviting entrée to Rancière’s thinking about art, history and politics than this little book."
J.M. Bernstein, New School for Social Research

Show More