The Mnemosyne website is a companion to Christopher D. Johnson’s 2012 book Memory, Metaphor, and Aby Warburg’s Atlas of Images, which appears in Cornell’s electronic and print book series, Signale: Modern German Letters, Cultures, and Thought. Drawing on Warburg’s published and unpublished writings and attending to Warburg’s cardinal idea that “pathos formulas” structure the West’s cultural memory, Johnson’s book traces several thematic sequences in Warburg’s panels and maps numerous tensions between word and image in the Mnemosyne Atlas.
While extremely wary of baneful effects of technology, especially as they concerned the closing of the psychological and conceptual “distance” that he so prized (see his “Lecture on Serpent Ritual”), Aby Warburg was also a great proponent of the latest technology in library science as well as in art-historical research and presentation. One could easily imagine him, in other words, now warily, now enthusiastically, embracing the possibilities inherent in digitizing his own work, especially the Mnemosyne Atlas. This site tries to realize only a handful of those possibilities. Using as its touchstones ten of the panels from Warburg’s Atlas, together with Johnson’s book and links to many other secondary sources, Mnemosyne: Meanderings through Aby Warburg’s Atlas aims to offer an interactive introduction to some of the material contained in Warburg’s magnum opus.