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Eccentricity and the Cultural Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Paris (Hardback)
  • Eccentricity and the Cultural Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Paris (Hardback)
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Eccentricity and the Cultural Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Paris (Hardback)

(author)
£58.00
Hardback 352 Pages / Published: 15/01/2009
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What did it mean to call someone 'eccentric' in nineteenth-century Paris? And why did breaking with convention arouse such ambivalent responses in middle-class readers, writers, and spectators? From high society to Bohemia and the demi-monde to the madhouse, the scandal of nonconformism provoked anxiety, disgust, and often secret yearning. In a culture preoccupied by the need for order yet simultaneously drawn to the values of freedom and innovation, eccentricity continually tested the boundaries of bourgeois identity, ultimately becoming inseparable from it. This interdisciplinary study charts shifting French perceptions of the anomalous and bizarre from the 1830s to the fin de siecle, focusing on three key issues. First, during the July Monarchy eccentricity was linked to fashion, dandyism, and commodity culture; to many Parisians it epitomized the dangerous seductions of modernity and the growing prestige of the courtesan. Second, in the aftermath of the 1848 Revolution eccentricity was associated with the Bohemian artists and performers who inhabited 'the unknown Paris', a zone of social exclusion which middle-class spectators found both fascinating and repugnant. Finally, the popularization of medical theories of national decline in the latter part of the century led to decreasing tolerance for individual difference, and eccentricity was interpreted as a symptom of hidden insanity and deformity. Drawing on a wide range of sources, including etiquette manuals, fashion magazines, newspapers, novels, and psychiatric treatises, the study highlights the central role of gender in shaping perceptions of eccentricity. It provides new readings of works by major French writers and illuminates both well-known and neglected figures of Parisian modernity, from the courtesan and Bohemian to the female dandy and circus freak.

Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISBN: 9780199543281
Number of pages: 352
Weight: 595 g
Dimensions: 223 x 145 x 21 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS
an exhaustive, scholarly, and rigorous account of the many forms that eccentricity took * Elizabeth Rechniewski, Times Higher Education *
well researched and historically sensitive... * Graham Robb, London Review of Books *
Ms. Gill recounts the varieties of Parisian eccentricity with academic thoroughness, ranging over a wide variety of sources * The Wall Street Journal *
the book is a fund of information and insights, and it offers a subtle, sympathetic and illuminating new reading of the nineteenth century * Timothy Unwin, French Studies *
this book will serve as an invaluable reference for students, scholars, and all those interested in nineteenth-century French cultural studies
The depth and richness of this interdisciplinary study is remarkable. The flawlessness of the prose and erudition of the vocabulary make the book a pleasure to read ... an exquisitely written book. * Melissa Wittmeier, H-France Review *

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