[Note for readers: this site was written largely in 2013 and revised until about 2016. It's readable and more or less proofread, but if you would like to use any of this material in classes or for citations, please contact me, I've been revising this continuously on Google Drive, and I'd be glad to send updated chapters.]

This book (full-length book, 200+ pages), with a question for a title, is part of a larger project on the history, theory, and possibilities of writing that includes images.

By "writing," in the wider project, I generally mean fiction (modernist, experimental, conceptual, unclassifiable) but also nonfiction (including some art history, art criticism, cultural criticism, visual studies, and art theory).

By "images" I mean principally photographs (but also charts, diagrams, maps, photocopies, and other graphics) and sometimes drawings and paintings.

The larger project is therefore meant to be about all writing that includes images, and especially novels and experimental fiction with photographs in the text. That larger theme surrounds the topic of these chapters, which are focused on the narrower subject of experimental writing on fine art, and especially writing that presents itself as art history. The idea is to try to lead from the specifics of art history out into wider spheres, and eventually into any writing (fiction included) that uses images (which aren't necessarily art). In all this, writing has center stage.

What is Interesting Writing in Art History? and its surrounding project, called Writing with Images, are both exercises in criticism. They are also meant to be practical, because I am trying to open this field for myself, for my own writing. I hope these chapters can be useful to others who write, necessarily, differently.


All of this material has been written online, and I am grateful to the readers on Facebook (in my experience most of them are engaged and often pertinent and challenging, and only a small percentage are out to advertise themselves, bluster, grandstand, or do any of the other crazy things people do on social media), Twitter (where brevity is a great censor), and on my website and Online readers of online drafts are thanked in the text, in this fashion: "Reading a draft of this chapter, Joseph Post wrote that..." The text is therefore crowd-sourced, and it has also developed in the conventional way, as a product of readings in the seminars I teach in Chicago at the School of the Art Institute.

Related material appears in “Das Ende des Schreibens über Kunst,” interview with Ruedi Widmer, in Laienherrschaft: 18 Exkurse zum Verhlältnis von Künsten und Medien (Berlin: Diaphenes, 2014), 71–85. My own vita is here.


  1. I just wonder where is poetry in all of this - ekphrasis - this most refined tool of art criticism

  2. Paradoxically, ekphrasis is writing without images! Theories of ekphrasis are pertinent, but it isn't on the t.o.c. because it doesn't involve the reproduction of images, but their reproduction, so to speak, in prose.

  3. Can't help thinking of Stevie Smith's drawings which she supposedly kept in a drawer and only placed with particular poems at last minute before publication. Blake, obviously; although perhaps his poem/engravings are text within artwork rather than the other way round (not how they are taught on literature courses). Also the war poet and painter Isaac Rosenberg who sent drawings and (brilliant) poems home from the front on muddy scraps of paper. Fascinating subject.

  4. Can't help thinking of Stevie Smith who supposedly kept piles of sketches in a drawer and only matched them with particular poems at the last minute before publication. Blake, obviously; although perhaps his poem/engravings are word within image rather than the other way round. Also, the WW1 poet and painter, Isaac Rosenberg, who sent poems and drawings home from the front on muddy scraps of paper. Dickinson's meticulously labelled Herbarium and stitched 'fascicles' of poems come to mind but they are probably something different altogether. Fascinating subject.

    1. Thanks for all that. It's a hard subject to circumscribe; if I were looking at Dickinson I'd be looking at her amazing handwriting as a visual object. But happily I'm not trying to theorize the entire field, which would also include artist's books: I'm looking at continuos narratives, paradigmatically fiction, with embedded captionless images. For me it's the most interesting configuration.

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