In this interview, W. J. T. Mitchell discusses many issues of concern to his readers. He talks about the relationship between art and environment and between images and words. For him, iconology at its foundation is not just about images but also about words; it is about investigating the conditions under which “words and images come together or pull apart and contest one another.” He constantly goes back and forth between literature and the visual arts, between words and images. Instead of seeing the study of images as a threat to literature, he sees it as an enrichment of it. Both literature and visual arts should be “connected with real life” and the world, “not clustered in the library where they have no communication with the experience of ordinary people.” He points out that different from the previously insular, Eurocentric world, the international art world now has produced a new kind of connection across the arts, and a new sense of global contemporaneity has emerged in which the center is much more difficult to locate. As to contemporary Chinese art in general, he perceives a “great leap,” in which much exciting, innovative work is being done. While recognizing the rapid development of Chinese higher education, he is also concerned with its obsession with money, which can produce quick returns but long-term disaster. An overemphasis on technology and science, as well as on business and economics, will harm the great legacy of Chinese literature and art. He points out that the responsibility of intellectuals is to engage in worldly issues, politics, and social affairs through writing, teaching, and interpretation of all forms of “texts.” In his recent book Cloning Terror, he observes that the war on terror had the effect of enhancing the terrorist program, paradoxically producing more terrorists. He also touches on the principles of managing his distinguished academic journal Critical Inquiry.

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