In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

139 Reviews Popular Bohemia: Modernism and Urban Culture in Nineteenth-Century Paris by Mary Gluck; pp. ix + 224. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2005. $40.00 cloth. For historians of modernism, and especially historians of art, the interaction between modern artists and the popular culture surrounding them has often been characterized as uneasy, if not altogether fraught.And while the current climate of postmodern intervention has attempted to forge more direct links between previously separate realms of“high” and“low” art, surprisingly little has been done to dislodge the ironclad structures and postulations that constitute the historical narratives of modernism writ large—accounts that often pit favoured notions of autonomy and radical resistance in opposition to much maligned (and too often facile) conceptions of mass culture. Indeed, as Mary Gluck argues in her important new book, we need to reevaluate why the opposition between modernism and mass culture has remained so resilient. Beginning with a rich and theoretically informed opening chapter, Gluck grounds her investigation in the dynamic context of nineteenth-century Paris, a site that she rightly argues continues to inform and even dictate the contemporary theoretical preoccupation with constructs of modern art and modernism . Gluck carefully traces out the shared roots of modernism as an aesthetic practice and bohemianism as a cultural phenomenon in order to locate the symbolic spaces where the two realms converge, complicating accounts of the avant-garde artist as autonomous.At the core of Gluck’s argument is a deliberate and methodical inquiry into how “the ideology of aesthetic autonomy” has persisted in undermining “richer,”“more inclusive,” and “more democratic” alternatives to existing narratives of modernism (4). More specifically Gluck identifies how problematic and often dialectic formulations of modernism as counterculture, of the modern artist as detached from culture, and of the idea of aesthetic autonomy as a retreat from the historical world into interior realms of psychology and art have contributed to and reinforced an“unacknowledged consensus” of modernity itself as“anchored within the philosophic traditions of rationalism” (6–7). In turn Gluck identifies the difficulty in teasing out the more contradictory, disorderly, and historically“messy” aspects of modernism, especially when current narratives of modernism are often constructed within a strongly ahistorical and formalist context. Gluck divides the remaining body of her book into four interrelated chapters that trace out what she terms the “historical archeology of popular bohemia” (23), providing alternative and shifting manifestations of the convergence of avant-garde and bohemian culture that are laid out as a theoretical possibility in the introduction. Indeed, a contributing agenda to Gluck’s overall project consists of recovering lost and overlooked voices and figures within nineteenthcentury Paris that were, for the most part, outside established art circles and salon culture. She opens the first of these chapters with a discussion on the development of avant-gardism as a radical new cultural practice and artistic victorian review • Volume 33 Number 1 140 identity emerging in 1830s Paris, and focuses on how romantic bohemian artists recognized and took up concepts of theatricality and melodrama found in popular literary and visual forms of the day to further their own understanding of modernity. In the second chapter, Gluck moves to an examination of how the shifts in urban and literary culture of the 1850s and 1860s would lead to the persona of the flaneur, a paradoxical, ambiguous, and self-reflexive figure firmly entrenched in the world of Parisian entertainment and bourgeois social ritual. In the third chapter, Gluck turns her attention to the social context of 1870s and 1880s Paris and the emerging figure of the decadent. Here she describes a persona whose dramatic gestures as a kind of hysteric were influenced by the rich context of the popular cabaret culture of the time. Gluck rounds out her analysis in the final chapter by turning to the fraught fin de siècle era and the work of the primitivist—an artist that engaged with romantic and exoticized images of the Other (often from popular culture) in order to create the spaces for a new radical art of the twentieth century. Overall I believe that the primary goal of Gluck’s research and investigation into the urban modernity of...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 139-140
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.