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March 28, 2000
Jonathan Crary Suspensions of Perception: Attention, Spectacle, and Modern Culture London, UK: MIT Press, 1998. 397 pp.; 86 b/w ills. Cloth $39.95 (0262032651)

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Jonathan Crary sets out the central thesis of his book at the outset of the seventy richly annotated pages of its first chapter, “Modernity and the Problem of Attention.” The topic of attention became central to scientific research and intellectual thought in the late nineteenth century, he argues, with attention itself coming to be considered “an essential but fragile imposition of coherence and clarity onto the dispersed contents of consciousness” (18). As evidence, he cites...