9780823279944: Hardback
Release Date: 12th June 2018

9780823279951: Paperback
Release Date: 12th June 2018

9780823279968: EPUB
Release Date: 12th June 2018

Dimensions: 152.4 x 228.6

Number of Pages: 140

Edition: 1st Edition

Series Lit Z

Fordham University Press


Written by
Jean-Luc Nancy
Translated by
Sarah Clift
Simon Sparks
Introduced by
Jeffrey S. Librett
Suspended between likeness and strangeness, portraiture can identify an individual only at the moment of its advancement and withdrawal. Examining 36 portraits across two millennia, Nancy shows how, despite photograph’s ubiquity, the forms of appearing that define the portrait continue to mark the bodies and representations that dominate our world.
Hardback / £74.00
Paperback / £19.99
EPUB / £23.00

Portraits, this book suggests, unlock the paradoxes of subjectivity. Nancy shows how the portrait, far from conveying a sitter’s self-sameness, is suspended between proximity and distance, likeness and strangeness, representation and presentation, the faithful and the forceful. A portrait can identify an individual, but it can also express a more complex double movement of approach and withdrawal.

Portrait comprises two extended essays in close conversation, written a decade apart, in which Nancy considers the range of aspirations articulated by the portrait. Accompanied by three dozen illustrations, it also includes a new preface written for the English-language edition and a substantial introduction by Jeffrey Librett, which situates the work within a range religious, aesthetic, and psychoanalytic accounts of the subject.

Portrait is grounded in a bold and searching engagement with the traditions out of which our thinking about the subject has emerged. It is also a playful series of readings that draws on a wide range of portraits: from carvings on ancient drinking vessels to recent experimental or parodic pieces in which sitters are rendered in the ‘media’ of their own blood, germ culture, or DNA.

Photos are ubiquitous today, but Nancy argues that this in no way makes thinking about the portrait an idle pursuit. On the contrary, the forms of appearing (and disappearing) that mark portraits—old and new—can serve to renew our exploration of the human figure today. At stake is what Nancy calls “the very possibility of our being present.”

This work received the French Voices Award for excellence in publication and translation. French Voices is a program created and funded by the French Embassy in the United States and FACE (French American Cultural Exchange).

Preface to the English- Language Edition vii

Introduction: The Subject of the Portrait 1
Jeffrey S. Librett

The Look of the Portrait

The Autonomous Portrait 13

Resemblance 21

Recall 29

Look 36

The Other Portrait

L’altro ritratto 47

Character 51

The Eye 54

Visageity 56

Mimesis 59

Withdrawn Presence 63

Ipseity 67

Theophany 72

Revelation 76

Divine Abandonment 81

Dis- figuration 84

Eclipse 89

Infinite Detachment 93

Coda I 99

Coda II 101

Coda III 104

Notes 109

List of Figures 125

Jean-Luc Nancy (Author)
Jean-Luc Nancy is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the Université Marc Bloch, Strasbourg. His wide-ranging thought is developed in many books, including Expectation: Philosophy, Literature; The Possibility of a World; The Banality of Heidegger; The Disavowed Community; and, with Adèle Van Reeth, Coming (all Fordham).
Jeffrey S. Librett (Introducer)
Jeffrey S. Librett is Professor of German at the University of Oregon.
Sarah Clift (Translator)
Sarah Clift is Assistant Professor of Contemporary Studies at the University of King's College, Halifax.

Jean-Luc Nancy’s Portrait is a metapicture, a portrait of portraiture itself, in all its paradoxical duplicity. Self and non-self, subject and object, identity and difference, face and sur-face are all made to resonate in the incandescence of Nancy’s prose. If the spaces of contemporary technical image-making are divided between the horizontality of landscape and the verticality of the portrait, this little book will make you stand on your head and look in the mirror in a radically new way.

W. J. T. Mitchell, University of Chicago