W. J. T. Mitchell

W J T Mitchell
Gaylord Donnelley Distinguished Service Professor
Wieboldt 203
Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University, 1968
Teaching at UChicago since 1977


I teach in both the English and the Art History departments and edit the interdisciplinary journal, Critical Inquiry, a quarterly devoted to critical theory in the arts and human sciences. I work particularly on the history and theories of media, visual art, and literature, from the eighteenth century to the present. My work explores the relations of visual and verbal representations in the culture and iconology (the study of images across the media).  In addition to publications resulting from my own research, under my editorship Critical Inquiry has published special issues on public art, psychoanalysis, pluralism, feminism, the sociology of literature, canons, race and identity, narrative, the politics of interpretation, postcolonial theory, and many other topics. As a teacher I try to encourage students from a variety of disciplinary locations to think about such topics as: "Space, Place, and Landscape," "Fetishism, Totemism, Idolatry," "The Eye and the Gaze," "Violence and Representation," and "The Arts of Memory." A few years ago I developed what has proven an especially successful course in "Theories of Media."  In 2003, I received the University of Chicago's Faculty Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching.

Selected Publications

  • Mental Traveler: A Journey through Schizophrenia (forthcoming 2020).
  • Metapictures: A Cloud Atlas of Images (forthcoming 2020).
  • Image Science: Iconography, Visual Culture, and Media Aesthetics(Chicago, 2015).
  • Seeing Through Race (Harvard, 2012).
  • Cloning Terror: The War of Images, 9/11 to the Present (Chicago, 2011).
  • What Do Pictures Want? Essays on the Lives and Loves of Images(Chicago, 2005). 2005 James Russell Lowell Prize, Modern Language Association; 2006 Laing Prize, University of Chicago Press
  • The Last Dinosaur Book: The Life and Times of a Cultural Icon (Chicago, 1998).
  • Landscape and Power, ed. (Chicago, 1994); 2nd edition, revised and enlarged, with a new preface, 2001.
  • Picture Theory (Chicago, 1994). 1996 Charles Rufus Morey Prize for art history, College Art Association; 1996 Laing Prize, University of Chicago Press
  • "The Pictorial Turn," ArtForum (March 1992, pp. 89ff).
  • Iconology: Image, Text, Ideology (Chicago, 1986). Japanese translation. Korean-language edition, Sizirak Publishing Company, 2004.
  • Blake's Composite Art (Princeton, 1977).

Courses Taught

2018-2019 Courses: Winter 2019, Theories of Media (grad/undergrad); Spring 2019, Cinemania: Madness and the Moving Image (grad/undergrad); Fall 2019, The Sonic Image

Graduate: Aesthetics of Media: Image, Music, Text; Theories of Media; Totemism, Fetishism, Idolatry; Visual Culture; Space, Place, and Landscape; Violence and Representation; The Eye and the Gaze; Vital Signs; The Arts of Memory; Contemporary Political Documentary; Seeing Madness: Mental Illness and Visual Culture (co-taught with Francoise Meltzer); Images and Science

Undergraduate: Reading Madness; Visual Culture; Media Aesthetics; Theories of Media; William Blake: Poet, Painter, and Prophet