Pompeii’s Romantic Legacy / Architecture and the Public Sphere

Posted in books, reviews by Editor on June 24, 2010

Recently added to caa.reviews:

Göran Blix, From Paris to Pompeii: French Romanticism and the Cultural Politics of Archaeology (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008), 320 pages, ISBN: 9780812241365, $59.95.

Reviewed by Pamela J. Warner, Department of Art and Art History, University of Rhode Island; posted 3 June 2010.

. . . readers looking for a history of archaeology in the nineteenth century should look elsewhere, as should those looking for detailed accounts of the actual archaeological site of Pompeii. As Blix writes in the introduction, his book is not “about the rise of archaeology . . . but about its broader mythical impact” (4). Thus the ancient site of Pompeii serves him as a repeating melody, a common but far from unique point of reference from which to cull evidence of a much broader archaeological gaze. Pompeii features as a figure that inspires a more diffuse range of approaches to not just the archaeological past but also the present and the future. Within that large compass, Blix concentrates on the myths and methods that determined the cultural practices of French Romanticism. . . . in making his case for the archaeological imaginary, Blix analyzes an impressive array of examples from a wide range of discourses, seeing in them underlying desires and fantasies that fueled archaeology as a science and allowed it to deeply permeate the Romantic mentality. His own prose, rich and filled with metaphors, makes the book a model of literary accomplishment, mirroring in this the hybrid qualities of the period it studies. . . .

For the full review, click here» (CAA membership required)

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Richard Wittman, Architecture, Print Culture, and the Public Sphere in Eighteenth-Century France (New York: Routledge, 2007). 304 pages, ISBN: 9780415774635, $165.

Reviewed by Freek Schmidt, Faculty of Arts, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam; posted 2 June 2010.

There was a time when architecture existed mainly in the physical reality of the built environment and in the imagination. That was before it became a standard ingredient of the contemporary media, and a subject attracting the interest of historians, travelers, writers, and the general population. Exactly how this happened is not easy to reconstruct, but it seems very likely that some major changes took place in the eighteenth century with the emergence of the modern public and its attendant configuration of public and private spheres.

In this important book, Richard Wittman suggests that many of the defining characteristics of modern architectural culture have their origins in the transformations of architectural publicity in eighteenth-century France. He does so at the end of Architecture, Print Culture, and the Public Sphere in Eighteenth-Century France, a clever reworking of his doctoral dissertation of 2001, after having presented the reader with a chronological study in four parts, consisting of twelve chapters, over the course of which he painstakingly unfolds his story of the emergence of the public as an extremely influential party in the development of French architecture and architectural debate. . . .

For the full review, click here» (CAA membership required)

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