New Book

New from Brill’s Historical Materialism Book Series – Communards and Other Cultural Histories

19th Apr 2017

Communards and Other Cultural Histories

Essays by Adrian Rifkin

Adrian Rifkin. Edited by Steve Edwards

This collection of some 32 articles and essays by Adrian Rifkin were written over a period of forty years. It contains innovative and influential studies of the archives of art, urbanism, music and popular life in France and Britain during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Arranged around a number of studies of the representation of the Paris Commune, the book also contains chapters on Edith Piaf’s role in French culture, histories of art education, opera and queer life in the city as well as analytical accounts of the commodity and cultural theory in Adorno and Benjamin. An extended introduction by Steve Edwards works over the questions of uneven time in Marxist cultural theory and the disciplinary formations that underpin many of Rifkin’s essays.

Biographical note

Adrian Rifkin was Professor of Fine Art at the University of Leeds, then Professor of Visual Culture at Middlesex University and Professor of Art Writing at Goldsmiths London, and is currently visiting Professor in Art at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London.

Steve Edwards is Professor in the Department of Art History at Birkbeck College, University of London. He is the author of several books on art and photography; an editor of the Oxford Art Journal and of the Historical Materialism Book Series.


Historians of cities and social conflict, art historians and theorists, cultural studies, gay and queer urban studies

Table of contents

Acknowledgements … ix
List of Figures … xii
Introduction: Adrian Rifkin, or from Art History in Ruins to a Lost Object … 1
Steve Edwards
Re-Reading by Torchlight 40
Adrian Rifkin

Part 1: New Art Histories

1.1 Art’s Histories (1986) … 51
1.2 Can Gramsci Save Art History? Traditional Art History – Some Aspects Of The Problem (1981) … 57
1.3 Marx’ Clarkism (1985) … 69
1.4 Carmenology (1988) … 84
1.5 History, Time and the Morphology of Critical Language, or Publicola’s Choice (1994) … 101
1.6 Bi-Centennial Literature on Art and the French Revolution (1990) … 115
1.7 The Words of Art, the Artist’s Status: Technique and Affectivity in France (1789–98) (1991) … 124
1.8 From Structure to Enigma and Back, Perhaps (2005) … 148

Part 2: Society, Image, Social Difference: Between the Paris Commune, the Salon and the People

2.1 Cultural Movement and the Paris Commune (1979) … 169
2.2 The Sex of French Politics (1983) … 196
2.3 No Particular Thing to Mean (1983) … 206
2.4 Well Formed Phrases: Some Limits of Meaning in Political Print at the End of the Second Empire (1986) … 229
2.5 Ingres and the Academic Dictionary: An Essay on Ideology and Stupefaction in the Social Formation of the ‘Artist’ (1983) … 250
2.6 Success Disavowed: The Schools of Design in Mid-Nineteenth-Century Britain. (An Allegory) (1988) … 272
2.7 Murals of the Buvette de la Commune – A Pictorial Dossier … 297

Part 3: Paris and More on the People

3.1 Musical Moments (1987) … 311
3.2 Parvenu or Palimpsest: Some Tracings of the Jew in Modern France (1995) … 349
3.3 Il y a des mots qu’on souhaiterait ne plus lire (2005) … 364
3.4 Gay Paris, Trace and Ruin (2002) … 376
3.5 Americans Go Home: Which is More American, Paris-Texas or Paris-France? (2004) … 388

Part 4: Alternatives to the Grander Schemas, or Resistance to the Critique of Grand Narrative as a Form of Grand Narrative

4.1 Down on the Upbeat: Adorno, Benjamin and the Jazz Question (1989) … 405
4.2 Total Ellipsis: Zola, Benjamin and the Dialectics of Kitsch (1996) … 416
4.3 The Long Run of Modernity, or an Essay in Post-Dating (1992) … 434
4.4 Benjamin’s Paris, Freud’s Rome: Whose London? (1999) … 451
4.5 Bayreuth, World City? Or: The Provincial Village as Global Denkmal (2011) … 467

Part 5: Postscripts: Different Beginnings

5.1 The Paris Commune of 1871 and Political Print (1979) … 483
5.2 For an Artist … (2008) … 494
5.3 No Thing to Regret (2001) … 497

Bibliography of Writings by Adrian Rifkin (to 2012) … 501
Bibliography … 508
Index … 537