How Art Becomes History: Essays on Art, Society, and Culture in Post-New Deal America

By Maurice Berger | Go to book overview

1
FSA: The Illiterate Eye

THE ARTS HAVE PRODUCED many works in which the poor are heroic, their plight sentimentalized, and the details of their lives made spiritual. (One thinks, for example, of the bittersweet moments of Vittorio De Sica's classic film The Bicycle Thief and the dignity of migrant workers in John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath.) Set in the slums of Rome, Pier Paolo Pasolini novel A Violent Life ( 1959) challenges this comfortable idea of the innocence of poverty. 1 Pasolini's world is brutal and violent: the poor are hungry. They are filthy. They are robbed. They are beaten by the police. They are devastated by physical and emotional illness. They die. Even the children's play yields to suspicions that their games are temporary escapes from horror and deprivation. Pasolini creates a field of provocation where the stench of urine and feces and the sight of blood, drool, and vomit constitute a leitmotif.

Pasolini wished to represent the brutality of "reality" and hence truth: "I would like to make it quite clear to the reader," he writes in a prefatory note to A Violent Life, "that everything he reads in this novel really happened, substantially, and continues to really happen." In preparation for

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How Art Becomes History: Essays on Art, Society, and Culture in Post-New Deal America
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Illustrations vii
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Introduction: How Art Becomes History xiii
  • Notes xxii
  • 1 - FSA: The Illiterate Eye 1
  • II - Of Cold Wars and Curators: the Case of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg 23
  • III - World Fairness 46
  • V - Race and Representation 78
  • VI - Black Skin, White Masks: Adrian Piper and the Politics of Viewing 93
  • VII - Culture Stories/American Myths 114
  • VIII - Are Art Museums Racist? 143
  • Notes 166
  • Index 195
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