Francesca Woodman and the Kantian Sublime

Routledge Press 2010/2016
Scholarship as Claire Raymond

In her feminist inquiry into aesthetics and the sublime, Claire Raymond reinterprets the work of the American photographer Francesca Woodman (1958-1981). Placing Woodman in a lineage of women artists beginning with nineteenth-century photographers Julia Margaret Cameron and Clementina, Viscountess Hawarden, Raymond compels a reconsideration of Woodman’s achievement in light of the gender dynamics of the sublime. Raymond argues that Woodman’s photographs of decrepit architecture allegorically depict the dissolution of the frame, a dissolution Derrida links to theories of the sublime in Kant’s Critique of Judgement. Woodman’s self-portraits, Raymond contends, test the parameters of the gaze, a reading that departs from the many analyses of Woodman’s work that emphasize her dramatic biography. Woodman is here revealed as a conceptually sophisticated artist whose deployment of allegory and allusion engages a broader debate about Enlightenment aesthetics, and the sublime.


“Finally, a profoundly aesthetic reading of photography’s most ravishing and demanding femme-enfant. Anyone beguiled by Francesca Woodman will be grateful to Claire Raymond for this strikingly intelligent, haunting tribute to Woodman’s uncanny and troubling art.”
-Maria DiBattista, Princeton University, USA

“While there has been a steady accumulation of critical responses to Woodman’s work since the 1980s, Claire Raymond’s Francesca Woodman and the Kantian Sublime is the first book length work which attends to the complexity of Woodman’s project with the nuance and careful attention that the photographs deserve… [this] is a book that should be valued for opening up possibilities in how we think about Woodman’s work, but also for how we think about selfportraiture, gender, the Kantian sublime and about photography itself.”
-The History of Photography

Read Reviews