Poe, Printmaking, and Intellectual Property

Speaker: Prof. Andrei Pop - Associate Professor, Committee on Social Thought and Department of Art History, University of Chicago

Andrei Pop brings together two of the peculiarities of French avant-garde art in the late 19th century: its nostalgic embrace of the American romantic Edgar Allan Poe and of the “dark and stormy” aesthetic of etching and engraving. The latter in particular is hard to square with our image of Manet and his contemporaries, going outside to paint urban Paris under the pressure of new media like photography. But the two apparent anachronisms help explain each other. The immersive subjectivity and rationalized technique both of Poe and of traditional printmaking practice addressed a major modernist concern: the possibility of collaboration and interpersonal understanding under conditions of rampant industrialization, capitalization, and mutual unintelligibility. It is no accident that the modern conception of intellectual property as a personal but alienable commodity, coincides with philosophical and aesthetic developments that insist on an objective, shared conceptual world that does not belong to anyone, and on the radical privacy of perceptual experience.

Dr Andrei Pop is Associate Professor in the Committee on Social Thought and the Department of Art History of the University of Chicago.  Before that, he studied at Stanford (BA) and Harvard (PhD), and taught at the Universities of Vienna and Basel. From 2013 to 201, he edited art theory and historiography book reviews for caa.reviews. His first book, Antiquity, Theatre, and the Painting of Henry Fuseli (Oxford, 2015) considered the Enlightenment tendency to view ancient art as culturally distinct from modern Europe, and featured a large cast of characters, including Emma Hamilton, Erasmus Darwin and Mary Wollstonecraft. A translation of Karl Rosenkranz’s 1853 Aesthetics of Ugliness and an edited volume on the subject, both with Mechtild Widrich, address the continued relevance of aesthetic categories, particularly negative ones. Pop’s second monograph, A Forest of Symbols (Zone, 2019) investigates the ways in which poets, visual artists, philosophers and mathematicians around 1900 turned their attention to the very means of symbol-making in various efforts to overcome the privacy of meaning. His longer-term interests include the imagination of the future, nineteenth-century mathematician-philosopher-priest Bernard Bolzano, and the collaboration between the eighteenth-century caricaturist James Gillray and his publisher Hannah Humphrey.

Organised by Dr Robin Schuldenfrei (The Courtauld) 

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23 Jan 2020

The Courtauld Institute of Art, Vernon Square, Penton Rise, King’s Cross, London