Images at Work: The Material Culture of Enchantment

David Morgan


Oxford University Press

Images can be studied in many ways – as symbols, displays of artistic genius, adjuncts to texts, or naturally occurring phenomena like reflections and dreams. Each approach is justified by the nature of the image in question as well as the way viewers engage with it. But images are often something more. Images come alive – they move us to action, calm us, reveal the power of the divine, change the world around us.

Building on his previous innovative work in visual and religious studies, Morgan creates a new framework for understanding how the human mind can be enchanted by images. He proposes that images are special kinds of objects, fashioned and recognized by human beings for their capacity to engage us. From there, he demonstrates that enchantment is not a violation of cosmic order, but a very natural way that the mind animates the world around it. Marrying network theory with cutting-edge work in visual studies, and connecting the visual and bodily technologies employed by the ancient Greeks and Romans to secular icons like Che Guevara, Abraham Lincoln, and Mao, his book will be transformative for those curious about why images seem to have a power of us in ways we can't always describe.