Monuments on Paper: Iconoclasm and the Critique of Authority in the Works of Radical French Printmakers (1871–1914)

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This dissertation attends to the acts and rhetoric of iconoclasm by organizing and analyzing the visual expressions of anti-monumentality in late nineteenth-century French revolutionary prints. These images testify to the creative and critical prolificacy of the concept of iconoclasm as utilized by the leftist visual imagination. The demolition of the Vendôme Column by the Paris Commune of 1871 functions as a paradigmatic event with the numerous communard caricatures and posters that heralded, explicated, and documented the Commune’s anti-monumental inspirations. I weave my arguments across the dialogic space between monuments and popular culture, emphasizing the latter’s capacity to unmask monuments as buttresses to hegemonic systems that perpetuate social and political injustices. The operative and opposing traits—e.g. immutability and transience, singularity and multiplicity— of two disparate registers of politicized aesthetics, of monumental structures and revolutionary prints, inform the methodology of this dissertation. Iconoclasm serves as the bridge that connects monuments and prints, first and foremost as an ethical-corrective intervention into politics, society, and history; and secondly as a revolutionary-aesthetic action that disrupts the structures of power by imagining anti-authoritarian ways of being and remembering. The organizing term of the text, “monuments on paper” theorizes the capacity of print culture to enact counter-monumental functions, actively reconstituting and mobilizing the memory of the struggles that challenge the brick, stone, and bronze monuments together with the systems and injustices associated with them. Finally, this dissertation offers a historical echo to discussions in our present moment with its narrative of the political and aesthetic efforts that reveal the unsettling histories that monuments hide, in order to keep these often celebrated markers of culture from retiring into the depoliticized categories of aesthetic achievement, antiquarian appreciation, tourist attraction, and national heritage.

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488 pages


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anarchism; iconoclasm; monuments; popular culture; prints; revolution


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Anderson, Benjamin William

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Meixner, Laura Lee
Traverso, Enzo

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History of Art, Archaeology, and Visual Studies

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Ph. D., History of Art, Archaeology, and Visual Studies

Degree Level

Doctor of Philosophy

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dissertation or thesis

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