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The Medicine Chest

Resonance (Greenblatt)



Resonance (Greenblatt)


In 'Resonance and Wonder' Greenblatt discusses ‘resonant’ moments in regards to museum displays as “those in which the supposedly contextual objects take on a life of their own and make a claim that rivals that of the object that is formally privileged. A table, a chair, a map – often seemingly placed only to provide a decorative setting for a grand work – become oddly expressive, significant not as a background but as compelling representational practices in themselves. These practices may in turn impinge on the grand work, so that we begin to glimpse a kind of circulation: the cultural practice and social energy implicit in mapmaking is drawn into the aesthetic orbit of a painting, which has itself enabled us to register some of the representational significance of the map” (1991: 22- 23). For him a resonant exhibition often “pulls the viewer away from the celebration of isolated objects and toward a series of implied, only half-visible relationships and questions” (1991: 23).


Stephen Greenblatt

Date Created



Greenblatt, S. 1991. Resonance and wonder. In I. Karp & S.D. Lavine (eds.). Exhibiting cultures: the poetics and politics of museum display. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press.



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