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general interest

My Father’s House On Will Barnet’s Paintings thomas dumm

Photo by Judith Piotrkowski

In My Father’s House, the political phi-

Hastie ’25 Professor of Political Ethics at Amherst College. He is the author of Loneliness as a Way of Life, A Politics of the Ordinary, Michel Foucault and the Politics of Freedom, and Democracy and Punishment: Disciplinary Origins of the United States, and a coeditor of Performances of Violence.

losopher Thomas Dumm explores a series M y Fat h e r’ s h ou s e



Thomas Dumm is William H.

on w ill barnet ’ s pai ntings

dissecting objects, it follows their rhythms, twists, and

American artist Will Barnet. Responding to the physical and mental decline of his sister Eva, who lived alone in the family home in Beverly, Massachusetts, Barnet began work in 1990 on what became a series of nine paintings depicting Eva and other family members as they once were and as they figured in the artist’s

“My Father’s House is a genuine and rare accomplishment. Art criticism is often at its best when, rather than

of stark and melancholy paintings by the

Thomas Dumm

memory. Rendered in Barnet’s signature quiet, abstract style, the paintings, each

turns. Thomas Dumm does just that. One of this book’s

featured in full color, present the ordinary and extraordinary aspects of a twen-

many strengths is the variety of ways that he evocatively

tieth-century American family.

relates the experience of Will Barnet’s paintings. Another

Dumm first became acquainted with Barnet and his paintings in 2008. Given his

is the magnificent introduction, which brings Emerson, Melville, Cavell, and others into conversation with the

scholarly focus on the lives of ordinary people, he was immediately attracted

spirit of Barnet’s work and with Barnet himself.”—TOM

to the artist’s work. When they met, Dumm and Barnet began a friendship and

HUHN , author of Imitation and Society: The Persistence

dialogue that lasted until the painter’s death in 2012, at the age of 101. This

of Mimesis in the Aesthetics of Burke, Hogarth, and Kant

book reflects the many discussions the two had concerning the series of paint-

“In this beautiful book, Thomas Dumm invents a new genre of writing, neither art criticism nor memoir nor

ings, Barnet’s family, his early life in Beverly, and his eighty-year career as a prominent New York artist. Reading the almost gothic paintings in conversation

philosophy nor psychology but something drawing from

with the writers and thinkers key to both his and Barnet’s thinking—Emerson,

each of those, something that tries to show more than

Spinoza, Dickinson, Benjamin, Cavell, Nietzsche, Melville—Dumm’s haunting

describe how works of art have power, a disseminating,

meditations evoke broader reflections on family, mortality, the uncanny, and

productive power that exceeds any biography. Dumm is

the loss that comes with remembrance.

an extraordinary writer and courageous thinker.”—JANE

BENNETT, author of Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things

“Thomas Dumm’s unique intelligence, perceptual clarity, and philosophical erudition inform this powerful homage to the artist Will Barnet and his series of paintings, My Father’s House. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Walter Benjamin, and Stanley Cavell are among those summoned to assist Dumm as he meditates on questions of place and person, loss and love, past and present, conjured for him by Barnet’s haunting and haunted works. This is a deeply moving account of how an encounter with art might allay the turbulent loneliness of our age.”—ANN LAUTERBACH , author of Under the Sign


A R T C R I T I C I S M/ P O L I T I C A L T H E O R Y & P H I L O S O P H Y

September 144 pages, 10 color illustrations cloth, 978–0–8223–5546–5, $24.95tr/£15.99

Fall & Winter 2014 Catalog  

The Fall & Winter 2014 catalog from Duke University Press.

Fall & Winter 2014 Catalog  

The Fall & Winter 2014 catalog from Duke University Press.