Commemorating Trauma: The Paris Commune and Its Cultural Aftermath

Commemorating Trauma: The Paris Commune and Its Cultural Aftermath

Commemorating Trauma: The Paris Commune and Its Cultural Aftermath

Commemorating Trauma: The Paris Commune and Its Cultural Aftermath


Challenging prevailing assumptions about the relationship between language and politics, this book offers a compelling new account of aesthetic and economic thought since the eighteenth century. Mieszkowski explores the doctrines of productivity and interest in Romanticism and classical political economy, arguing that the critical force of any historical model of literature depends on its understanding of the distinction between intellectual and material labor. This provocative contribution to contemporary debates about culture and ideology will be important for scholars of literature, history, and political theory.


Perhaps it would be worth dwelling on this realm of confusion—
which is simply that in which the whole human opera buffa is played
out—to understand the pathways by which analysis proceeds, not
only to restore order here but also to establish the conditions of
possibility of its restoration.

—Jacques Lacan, “L’Instance de la lettre dans l’inconscient”
(The Instance of the Letter in the Unconscious)

This century is meant to confuse everything. We are marching
toward chaos.

—Stendhal, Le Rouge et le noir (The Red and the Black)

In the opening chapter of his Mimesis, Erich Auerbach draws a famously sharp distinction between legend and history. in legend, he writes, thinking of Homer: “All cross-currents, all friction, all that is casual, secondary to the main events and themes, everything unresolved, truncated, and uncertain, which confuses the clear progress of the action and the simple orientation of the actors, has disappeared” (19). Legend thus “detaches [its material] from its contemporary historical context, so that the latter will not confuse it” (19). To legend’s essential simplification, Auerbach opposes the complex richness of historical narrative, approximated by the stories of the Old Testament but fully realized only in the course of the nineteenth century. Whether we witness the historical event directly or learn of it from others, Auerbach writes, that event

Runs much more variously, contradictorily, and confusedly; not until it has
produced results in a definite domain are we able, with their help, to classify
it to a certain extent; and how often the order to which we think we have
attained becomes doubtful again, how often we ask ourselves if the data

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