The Gamin de Paris in Nineteenth-Century Visual Culture Delacroix, Hugo, and the French Social Imaginary
The revolutionary boy at the barricades was memorably envisioned in Eugène Delacroix’s painting Liberty Leading the People (1830) and Victor Hugo’s novel Les Misérables (1862). Over the course of the nineteenth century, images of the Paris urchin entered the collective social imaginary as cultural and psychic sites of memory, whether in avant-garde or more conventional visual culture. Visual and literary paradigms of the mythical gamin de Paris were born of recurring political revolutions (1830, 1832, 1848, 1871) and of masculine, bourgeois identity constructions that responded to continuing struggles over visions and fantasies of nationhood. With the destabilization of traditional, patriarchal family models, the diminishing of the father’s symbolic role, and the intensification of the brotherly urchin’s psychosexual relationship with the allegorical motherland, what had initially been socially marginal eventually became symbolically central in classed and gendered inventions and repeated re-inventions of "fraternity," "people," and "nation." Within a fundamentally split conception of "the people," the bohemian boy insurrectionary, an embodiment of freedom, was transformed by ongoing discourses of power and reform, of victimization and agency, into a capitalist entrepreneur, schoolboy, colonizer, and budding military defender of the fatherland. A contested figure of the city became a contradictory emblem of the nation.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
Ch. 1 Revolutionary Ancestors of the Gamin de Paris
Ch. 2 Child of the People and Child of the Fatherland in Nineteenth-Century French Social History
Ch. 3 Child of the People and Child of the Fatherland in the French Social Imaginary
Ch. 4 The Gamin de Paris and the Revolution of 1830
Ch. 5 The Gamin de Paris in Panoramic Literature and in the Revolutions of 1848
Ch. 6 The Gamin de Paris, the Second Empire, and the Commune
Ch. 7 The Gamin de Paris during the Early Third Republic
"Brown’s meticulously researched illuminating study of the trajectory of the gamin across the nineteenth century makes a compelling case for the centrality of the gamin topos in French visual culture ... In her perceptive critical reading of individual images Brown offers a compelling demonstration of the challenges and rewards of examining visual culture in relation to political events and the vicissitudes of history."
--Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide