Parisian Culture in Literature and the Visual Arts

August 27, 2013
“A walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty, and in the point of Life.” - Thomas Jefferson
   In her September 9th class, Anna Tachinci will focus on works devoted to Paris in 19th and 20th century literature by studying literary excerpts by Hugo, Baudelaire, Balzac, Zola, Apollinaire, Proust, Breton, Queneau, and Duras.  She will bring in artworks of the same period (architecture, painting, sculpture, decorative arts, photography, and film) in the context of Parisian museums and culture. We recently sat down with Ms. Tahinci to discuss her upcoming class. (Image above: Gustave Caillebotte, Paris Street; Rainy Day)
WIH Reporter: What is important to know about your class?

Tahinci: During this six-week class we will be using the City of Lights as our unique text. We will learn to interpret artworks devoted to Paris both in literature and the visual arts of the 19th and the 20th centuries. As we will be walking through the city – virtually, visually and textually – we will trace the history and culture of France in Paris. We will learn not only how to engage critically with and interpret textual and visual material, but also how to read and analyze the physical space surrounding us. In combining methods of reading literature, visual arts and architecture, we will learn how to interpret art across disciplines. We will also critically address the question of how the culture and history that surround us are constructed by the critical choices that we make in the way we observe them.

WIH Reporter: What things would surprise us to know about the City of Lights?

Tahinci: The City of Lights was inhabited since 250 BCE by people from Celtic Gaule: it was the city of Lucotecia (Lutecia), the Lutèce of the Romans. The site was chosen because of the importance of the Seine river, for access to water and commercial activities.

WIH Reporter: What is the biggest misconception we have about Paris?

Tahinci: There are plenty of stereotypes and urban legends about Paris and the Parisians, mostly due to cultural differences. Americans often consider Paris as the most romantic city in the world and there are indeed plenty of reasons to consider this city highly romantic. But Paris is most importantly a truly historical city full of beauty and we will learn how to decipher this beauty in artworks of the 19th and 20thcenturies.

WIH Reporter: What media will you use in your class?

Tahinci: The fully illustrated lectures will be accompanied by a selection of readings written by the most prominent French authors: Victor Hugo, Charles Baudelaire, Honoré de Balzac, Emile Zola, Guillaume Apollinaire, Marcel Proust, André Breton. We will analyze artworks of the same period—architecture, painting, sculpture, decorative arts, photography, and film—in the context of such Parisian museums as the Musée de la Vie Romantique, Musée Victor Hugo, Maison de Balzac, Musée d’Orsay, and Centre Georges Pompidou. A selection of movies, such as Midnight in Paris, will also be included.

This 6-week class will take place on Sept. 9th from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. For more information, or to register, click here.