Is Paris Still the Capital of the Nineteenth Century? : Essays on Art and Modernity, 1850-1900 book cover
1st Edition

Is Paris Still the Capital of the Nineteenth Century?
Essays on Art and Modernity, 1850-1900

ISBN 9781472460141
Published June 29, 2016 by Routledge
324 Pages 67 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

"Is Paris Still the Capital of the Nineteenth Century?" The question that guides this volume stems from Walter Benjamin's studies of nineteenth-century Parisian culture as the apex of capitalist aesthetics. Thirteen scholars test Benjamin's ideas about the centrality of Paris, formulated in the 1930s, from a variety of methodological perspectives. Many investigate the underpinnings of the French capital's reputation and mythic force, which was based largely upon the city's capacity to put itself on display. Some of the authors reassess the famed centrality of Paris from the vantage point of our globalized twenty-first century by acknowledging its entanglements with South Africa, Turkey, Japan, and the United States. The volume equally studies a broader range of media than Benjamin did himself: from modernist painting and printmaking, photography, and illustration to urban planning. The essays conclude that Paris did in many ways function as the epicenter of modernity's international reach, especially in the years from 1850 to 1900, but did so only as a consequence of the idiosyncratic force of its mythic image. Above all, the essays affirm that the study of late nineteenth-century Paris still requires nimble and innovative approaches commensurate with its legend and global aura.

Table of Contents


List of Figures

Notes on Contributors



Hollis Clayson and André Dombrowski


Introduction by André Dombrowski

1 Architecture’s Capital? Revisiting Benjamin’s Paris

Charles Rice

2 How Haussmann’s Hegemony Haunted the Early Third Republic

Peter Soppelsa

3 The Guillotine Sublime

Marc Gotlieb

4 Victorine’s Secret: Baudelaire and the Ambiguity of Commodities

Paul Smith

5 A Laughter of the Look: Manet, Mallarmé, Polichinelle, and the Salon Jury in 1874

Margaret Werth


Introduction by Hollis Clayson

6 Revisiting the 1860s: Race and Place in Cape Town and Paris

Tamar Garb

7 Osman Hamdi Bey and Ottoman Aestheticism

Mary Roberts

8 Paris, Japan, and Modernity: A Vexed Ratio

Ting Chang

9 White City vs. La Ville lumière: Electrical Displays at the World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago (1893)

Hélène Valance


Introduction by Hollis Clayson

10 Manet and the Multiple

Anne Higonnet

11 Gesture, Pose, Practice: Charles Nègre and the Image of Instantaneity

Jacob W. Lewis

12 Living on Manet’s Balcony, or the Right to Privacy

André Dombrowski

13 Mary Cassatt’s Lamp

Hollis Clayson


Hollis Clayson and André Dombrowski

Further Reading


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Hollis Clayson is Bergen Evans Professor in the Humanities and Professor of Art History, Northwestern University, USA.

André Dombrowski is Associate Professor in History of Art, University of Pennsylvania, USA.


'There are times when divergent academic and ideological interests come together unexpectedly; these events can yield new scholarly insights even as they lay bare disciplinary antagonisms. A 2009 symposium at the Clark Art Institute was just such an occasion. Its interrogatory title Is Paris Still the Capital of the 19th Century? signaled the conveners’ interest in the legacies of Charles Baudelaire, Walter Benjamin, and T. J. Clark for the writing of nineteenth-century art history. Less clear was whether the title was meant ironically or in earnest. Were the conveners purposely begging the question? The publication of a related collection of essays now provides some answers. Edited by Hollis Clayson and André Dombrowski, who jointly organized the symposium, the volume includes essays by eight of the original speakers, augmented by contributions by five additional scholars.'

--CAA Reviews

'The essays in this volume draw us to a terrain we love and think we know, but by asking, "Is Paris still capital of the nineteenth century", the authors work to destabilize our knowledge of the capital of modernism and modernity. They accomplish this by probing the familiar to uncover new depths (Manet, Benjamin, Haussmannization); by juxtaposing painting with printmaking, photography, electric lighting; and by seeing Paris anew in a global context. Highly recommended.'

--Nancy Locke, The Pennsylvania State University, USA and author of Manet and the Family Romance