The Real Real Thing: The Model in the Mirror of Art. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010.


Venus in Exile: The Rejection of Beauty in Twentieth-Century Art. New York: The Free Press, 2001.

Paperback: University of Chicago Press, 2002.

U. K. edition: The Trouble with Beauty. London: Heinemann, 2001.
Postmodern Fictions; 1960-1990 in Cambridge History of American
, vol. 7 (London/New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999).

This study of late 20th-century U.S. fiction is one of 25 book-length contributions that constitute the new Cambridge History of American Literature (ed. Sacvan Bercovitch). The Journal of American Studies has declared it “without doubt and without any serious rival, the scholarly history for our generation.” Postmodern Fictions explores the genres of the novel as laid out in 1960s criticism: the experimentalism of Pynchon, Barth, and Hawkes; the “traditional” fiction of Mailer, Roth, and Vonnegut; the “women’s writing” of Morrison, Robinson, and Walker. Steiner’s conclusion is that what looked like separate trends in 1960 or 1970 had become so overlapping and interconnected in works of the 1980s that the map of American fiction needed to be totally redrawn.


The Scandal of Pleasure: Art in an Age of Fundamentalism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995.

Paperback: University of Chicago Press, 1997.

This book counters the rise of fundamentalist thinking about the arts with a liberal aesthetic for our times. A report from the battleground of late 20th-century culture, it surveys a series of dismaying controversies: the Mapplethorpe affair and the death sentence against Salman Rushdie; the crusade to equate pornography with rape; political correctness and the “scholar scoundrels” Anthony Blunt, Paul de Man, and Martin Heidegger. Steiner argues that these cases rest on a dangerous literalism that erases the distinction between the virtual and the real.

[Listed among the New York Times 100 Best Books of 1996]


Pictures of Romance: Form Against Context in Painting and Literature. Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1988.

Paperback: Chicago UP, 1991.

Pictures from the Renaissance to modernism freeze narratives in an a-temporal moment. The aim is visual realism, a suspended moment of perception with an “unnatural” clarity and compression of meaning. Those images turn up regularly in literary romances, where, paradoxically, they convey the anti-realism of this genre. An exploration of temporal suspension and narrativity, this book reveals an intricate exchange between the visual arts and romance literature.


The Colors of Rhetoric: Problems in the Relations between Modern Literature and Painting. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982.

Paperback: Chicago UP, 1986.

The ancient notion of the “sister arts” crops up in the history of aesthetics whenever the fortunes of literature and painting cross. This book transforms the analogy from a matter of intuition to a matter of philosophy, examining the connections and barriers between visual and verbal art, particularly with reference to twentieth-century modernism. A pioneering contribution to interartistic studies since the 1980s, The Colors of Rhetoric provided a theoretical and historical context for the emerging field.

Exact Resemblance to Exact Resemblance: The Literary Portraiture of Gertrude Stein. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1978.

This study is one of the earliest scholarly treatments of Gertrude Stein’s writing. The focus is her literary portraits, a genre serving through most of her career as a laboratory for her inquiries into language, representation, and identity. Apart from discussing Stein’s theory of portraiture and providing readings of several of her challenging texts, this book explores the history of the literary portrait, its relation to visual portraiture, and the connection of Stein’s writing to Cubist painting.

Literature as Meaning: A Thematic Anthology. New York: Pearson/Longman,
Penguin Academic, 2005 (paperback).

This anthology organizes its poems, plays, short stories, and nonfiction under themes of urgent contemporary interest, exposing readers to the complex ways in which literature both is and is not a statement about reality. Among the selections in Literature as Meaning are traditional and contemporary works that cover a diversity of ethnic, racial, and gender viewpoints. Thought-provoking questions accompany each section, introducing readers to basic concepts and approaches in literary criticism, from textual close reading to the aesthetic treatment of social issues such as gender, identity, ecology, and war. The pedagogical introduction lays out the discipline of literary study through discussions of genre, canon, and rhetorical figures. Part of the Penguin Academics series, this compact, economical anthology provides an ideal introduction to the study of literature.


Edited Volumes

  Painting and Literature, Poetics Today, vol. 10, no. 1 (spring, 1989). Essays by noted scholars on topics in the connection between visual and verbal art.

Painting and Literature, Poetics Today, vol. 10, no. 2 (summer, 1989). Essays by noted scholars on topics in the connection between visual and verbal art.


The Sign in Music and Literature. Austin: Texas University Press, 1981. Essays by noted scholars in semiotic approaches to music and literature.

Image and Code. Ann Arbor: Michigan Studies in the Humanities, 1981. Essays by noted scholars in semiotic approaches to painting and literature.





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Biennale: A Comic Opera