Special Topics in Art and Culture: Alchemists of Revolution
180 Tappan
MW 2:30-4:00pm
3 Credit Lecture

Revolution is a utopian project, and revolutionaries presumably want nothing more than to eradicate the past, to reconfigure the present, and to imagine an egalitarian and harmonious future. One of their most urgent missions is to invent communicative systems that represent the distinctions between revolutionary objectives and the iniquities associated with the past. At the same time, of course, their best efforts to figure revolution are necessarily tied to older systems of representation that are already inflected by the same histories of subjugation they want to overcome. Such was the case when, following the storming of the Bastille in 1789, France embarked on a revolutionary trajectory that lasted--despite intense resistance from reactionary quarters--for nearly a century. This course addresses the most fundamental problem of French revolutionary rhetoric: how to communicate the promises of a revolutionary future with language systems (both visual and verbal) that are necessarily linked to the past. Our focus is the revolutionary visual forms that emerged in France during the great upheavals of 1789-99, 1830, 1848, and 1871. These are well-rehearsed historical convulsions, and they are among the most memorable of the events around which the French Republic has built its master narratives. But they are also the stuff of revolutionary mythmaking, so our inquiry will also involve an examination of interrelationships between history, memory, and fiction, as well as the rhetorical mechanisms through which the distinctions between them become blurred. Requirements: In-class quizzes, a midterm, a final examination, and a paper (@ 1500 -1750 words).

Estimated cost of materials: less than $50. D. 4