Guido Boffi

«Operationalizing Warburg». Some Methodological Notes and an Issue

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Is it possible to analyse visual images in computational, quantitative terms? Can we really measure them? And if we can, what do we then do with the resulting measurements? These are the fundamental questions that this paper seeks to answer. After introducing the computational approach to literary study developed by Franco Moretti, I consider his operationalization of the Pathosformeln shown in Aby Warburg’s Atlas Mnemosyne. I then highlight the fact that, methodologically speaking, quantitative and qualitative analytical approaches are essentially other. And finally, I interrogate the consistency and coherence of the iconographic example proposed by Moretti. This analysis is intended to demonstrate some of the reasons why I think that operational analysis and historical-philological inquiry can interact only within precise limits


  • Aby Warburg
  • Computational Criticism
  • Expression
  • Interpretation
  • Pathosformeln


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