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New in Leonardo
A Review of A Forest of Symbols

In a new review in Leonardo, Jan Baetens discusses A Forest of Symbols: Art, Science, and Truth in the Long Nineteenth Century by Andrei Pop. Click here to learn more about the book. Click here to read the full review. An excerpt appears below:

“As one easily infers from this presentation, Pop’s book, a mesmerizing read, is neither an art-historical study nor an illustration of the history of ideas, aesthetic as well as scientific. A truly interdisciplinary investigation, A Forest of Symbols is a book that aims at get a better understanding of the role and place of meaning in symbolic interaction (in this case through words and pictures, sometimes in synergy, sometimes in blatant conflict with each other). This better understanding, however, does not tend to solve the question of meaning by proposing a new theory of new methods of reading capable of delivering a more solid ground for reading and interpretation. Instead Pop’s endeavor is to enlighten the reasons why meaning or rather meanings are at the same time impossible to fix and absolutely necessary, unless one want to fall prey to one of the alternatives logical symbolist thinking decidedly questions: on the one hand empiricism, on the other hand subjectivism (or from a more collective point of view: social construction). Meanings, logical entities, mental images (and the notion of mental images supersedes the purely visual signification of the notion of image or picture) always emerge from the clash between world and mind (the ‘doubling problem’ as Pop calls it), while also being the only possible way, in spite of their fundamental diversity and plurality, of negotiating between both as well as to better accept the internal divergences between competing meanings.”