Critical Inquiry 10 (3):391-419 (1984)

“Paris, Capital of the Nineteenth Century” juxtaposes elliptical descriptions that reveal the interiorization of commodities in the economy of high capitalism. “Allegory in the nineteenth century vacated the outer world, to colonize the inner world.”32 Each of the exposé’s six sections consists of two parts: “Fourier, or the Arcades,” “Daguerre, or the Panoramas,” “Grandville, or the World Exhibitions,” “Louis-Philippe, or the Interior,” “Baudelaire, or the Streets of Paris,” “Haussmann, or the Baricades.”33The commercial arcade and not the factory is the logical starting point for Benjamin. Paris, like London, the other capital of nineteenth-century capitalism, is an administrative and financial but not an industrial center. Paris is the locus classicus of bourgeois culture, which finds its most conspicuous expression in the arcade. The arcade cuts through and commercializes the residential block. It harnesses the technology of cast-iron “Pompeian” pillars, to offer in its enticing bay windows the latest, most sophisticated form of bourgeois merchandising. Fourier houses his “land of Cockaigne” in a “reactionary modification” of the arcade.34Parallel to the technical innovation of the arcades is that of the lifelike painted panoramas, which serve Jacques-Louis David’s pupils when they “draw from nature.” Politically superior, the city still dreams of the country. “The panoramas, which declare a revolution in the relation of art to technology, are at the same time an expression of a new feeling about life.”35 They drive a wedge between “plastic foreground” and “informational base.” The worker in the literary panorama is “a trimming for an idyll.” Technical innovations in photography reduce the representational significance of painting. Now photography “is given the task of making discoveries”: it explores the sewers and catacombs. It markets events. With impressionism and cubism, painting in turn transcends bourgeois conceptions of realism. 32. “Die Allegorie hat im neunzehnten Jahrhundert die Umwelt geräumt, um sich in der Innenwelt anzusiedeln” .33. Adorno objects to the use of people’s names in these titles and suggests that objects like dust or plush would bemore illuminating. Benjamin retains the names to evoke bourgeois interiorization. Louis-Philippe, however, is anomalous, since he is emblem rather than allegorist; the true allegorist of the “Louis-Philippe, or the Interior” section is the collector. Otherwise, the organization is strictly symmetrical: Benjamin discusses Charles Fourier, Louis Daguerre, and Grandville at the end of the sections in which they appear, the others at the beginning.34. Trans. Jephcott, p. 148. “Das Schlaraffenland,” “ihre reaktionäre Umbildung” . Anne Higonnet, formerly a student at the Ecole du Louvre, is a graduate student of art history at Yale University. Margaret Higonnet, professor of English and comparative literature at the University of Connecticut, has written on Romantic and modern literary theory. Patrice Higonnet is Goelet Professor of French History at Harvard University. He has written on the French Revolution and, with Margaret Higonnet, is coauthor of a forthcoming book on suicide in eighteenth-century France
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DOI 10.1086/448255
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