Reading and Writing about Visual Experience: Paris, Capital of the 19th Century
What is a Metropolis? Or rather, what is meant by Metropolis? In 1973, Massimo Cacciari offered the following response: “the Metropolis,” he says, “is the general form assumed by the process of the rationalization of social relations.” It is a grim diagnosis, to be sure, but perhaps all the more formidable because of it: the modern city, in Cacciari’s view, becomes both the site and medium of capitalist development – the form, as it were, Capital takes in the 19th and 20th centuries; but also Capital’s abstraction, its image. In this course, we will test Cacciari’s generalizing view of the Metropolis by examining the development of Paris in the 19th century. Our primary interest will be the period’s orienting images – the Arcade, say, or the barricade, the view from Notre-Dame, the World Exposition (to name only a few) – and the possibilities and limits of understanding such cultural forms as condensations and crystallizations of social process.