Call for Papers: Waking the Dead after the Revolution

Posted in Calls for Papers by Editor on June 22, 2010

Waking the Dead: Sublime Poetics and Popular Culture in the Aftermath of the French Revolution
Académie de France in Rome and the Royal Dutch Institute in Rome, 28-29 January 2011

Proposals due by 1 July 2010

One of the oldest claims of art is that it can bring back the dead. Leon Battista Alberti, for instance, included this claim in his praise of the Painter’s art in De Pictura, where it is part of the humanist interest in the rhetorical concept of enargeia, a representation, be it in words or images, that is so lifelike, so vivid, that it seems to dissolve the representation into what it represents. But what happens when this endeavour to animate the inanimate matter of the work of art is applied not to the high art of the Renaissance and the Baroque, in the accepted contexts and genres of religion and politics, where it is anchored in generally accepted poetics, artistic canons and aesthetic traditions, but in periods of profound upheaval, such as the French Revolution? To those who lived through the events of 1789-98, it seemed as if an irreparable gap had opened between the past of the Ancien Régime and the present times which were completely out of joint. The way artists and writers have tried to cope with this sense of loss (in many cases compounded by very real personal loss of relatives and friends who had died under the guillotine) has often been studied, and recently the concept of the sublime has been evoked, for instance, by the philosopher of history Frank Ankersmit to define the undefinable experience of a complete break with the past. In this conference we want to take a close look at one particular artistic variety of dealing with the French Revolution: the rise of new genres of popular culture such as the panorama, the tableau vivant or phantasmagoria to bring back events such as the execution of the King and Queen of France, the storming of the Bastille, or dead persons. These performances or installations drew on all the arts, drew huge crowds, and were often so effective in creating the illusion that the dead had returned from the grave that viewers fainted or became hysterical with terror. If, as David Freedberg observed on the closing page of The Power of Images, “we think we can escape bad dreams by talking about art,” these terrifying performances, fraught with loss and guilt, propose a particular challenge for art history. In this conference we welcome reconstructions of such performances, considerations of the role the various arts, and in particular architecture and acting played in them; but we are also interested in investigations of some more general themes:

  • The shift from extreme vividness as a humanist concern with enargeia and life to a coupling of such vividness with death, loss, terror and the abject; how, in other words, did the poetics of suggesting life evolve into a technique of terror?
  • Shifts in the relation between high and low art: how, for instance, did the high art of architectural and archaeological reconstructions of ancient monuments feed into the staging of tableaux vivants and panoramas?
  • What do these performances tell us about the rise of new aesthetic categories such as the sublime and the uncanny; or the development of new artistic and aesthetic experiences such as the Gothic frisson or Ruinenlust?
  • Can we identify particular objects, works of art or buildings as particularly significant for such attempts to bring back the dead? (more…)

Happy Birthday, Enfilade!

Posted in anniversaries, site information by Editor on June 22, 2010

From the Editor

Keven Law, Wikimedia Commons

As I’ve said in the past, I’m extremely grateful to all of you for visiting the site and especially to Enfilade’s regular readers — all the more so on this one-year anniversary! What I envisioned as a convenient forum for sharing the occasional news item for HECAA members has surpassed my wildest expectations. To be sure, Enfilade is still a work in progress, and based on feedback from others, I’m optimistic about the future of this experiment.

I’m especially happy to welcome aboard Jennifer Ferng as our first Correspondent staff member. A former practicing architect, Jennifer is a Ph.D. candidate in the History, Theory, & Criticism of Architecture and Art program at MIT. Her dissertation focuses on the intersections between architecture, the decorative arts, and geology during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in Britain and France. From 2009 until 2011 she is based in Paris at the INHA as a Kress Fellow. Particularly in light of how many of you think of France as the geographical, intellectual, and artistic center of your work, I’m thrilled about the addition.

As I’ve also emphasized in the past, Enfilade readers are genuinely interested in what HECAA members are doing. So please continue to send reports regarding your own publications and research activities along with general notices of news items that relate to the art and visual culture of the long eighteenth century.

Finally, let me put in a plea for your financial support. The cost of an annual HECAA membership is just $20 (only $5 for students). If you’re not a member or if your membership has expired, please consider joining or renewing now (additional financial support is also most welcome). HECAA is affiliated with two scholarly organizations (the College Art Association and the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies), but anyone interested in the eighteenth century is most welcome here. Your payment will help fund the work of graduate students and junior scholars. Moreover, in being counted as a HECAA member, you help make the case that the eighteenth century really does matter for how we think about art history, visual culture, and the history of the built environment in general (in our world where keeping count becomes increasingly important, membership size is itself an indication of support).

Thanks again, and I leave with you an assortment of statistics:

  • 396: number of postings published in the first year
  • 44,600: total number of views Enfilade received in the first year
  • 12,512: number of individual visitors to Enfilade during the second quarter of 2010
  • 1516: number of views from returning visitors during the second quarter of 2010
  • 2804: total number of views from returning visitors

Craig Hanson

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