Aesthetics in Ruins: Parisian Writing, Photography and Art, 1851-1892
White, Nicholas J.
University of Cambridge
Modern and Medieval Languages, French
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Tranca, I. A. (2018). Aesthetics in Ruins: Parisian Writing, Photography and Art, 1851-1892 (Doctoral thesis). https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.17709
This project explores two main lines of inquiry concerning representations of ruins in Paris. I first identify a turning point in the evolution of the ruin leitmotif beyond Romanticism in its transfer into a new context: modern Paris. The analysis demonstrates the correlation between this leitmotif and urban environment in transformation, and their influence on aesthetics, leading to the renewal of modes of representation in literary and visual discourse. Unconventional ruins, recently created by demolition during Haussmannisation (1853-70) or war (1870-71) challenge conceptions about space (inside/outside, up/down, visible/invisible), time, and the individual in relation to the city. In view of tracing the transformation of the ruin ethos in relation to modern sensibilities towards the city and its modes of representation, a chronological approach concentrates on two main periods divided into four chapters. The first interval extends from 1848 throughout the Second Empire and the second spans the 1870-1871 conflagration and the Third Republic. An interdisciplinary and dialogic approach reveals the exchanges between different media (literature, journalism, painting, photography) aiming to convey the paradoxes of Paris's modern ruins. Moreover, close reading and comparisons of authors' and artists' depictions across media and genres nuance, correct or disprove critical appraisals, re-establishing artistic authority (e.g. photographers Charles Marville and Bruno Braquehais). The second line of inquiry posits that representations of ruins reflect on the relationship of Parisians with their city during systematisation and wartime destruction. Research reveals that individual initiatives of representing urban ruins attest to a new sensibility towards the city, preceding the Second Empire's (1853-1870) apparatus of historical and topographic documentation to preserve the appearance of spaces before intervention. Thus, during Paris's systematisation, private and artistically-minded projects become the tools of patrimonial preservation. By comparison, aesthetic approaches to ruins in 1871 mark a new appreciation of modern architecture, while engaging with war trauma.
ruins, Paris, urban landscape, representation, Haussmannisation, Franco-Prussian War, aesthetics, literature, photography, art, built patrimony, architecture, preservation, Third Republic
2013 – 2016 Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Doctoral Studentship, UK (Full-time doctoral award, fees and maintenance)
This record's DOI: https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.17709
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