gory," recently published in a special issue of the Art Institute of Chicago's Museum Studies devoted to the painting,13 originated as the result of a conjunction of relatively unrelated circumstances. I had been reading the work of the critical theorist Ernst Bloch--The Principle of Hope and The Utopian Function of Art and Literature--in conjunction with a long study of Courbet's allegorical masterpiece The Painter's Studio I was preparing for the Brooklyn Museum's exhibition of that artist's work. Shortly after I had finished the Courbet piece, I was asked by the School of the Chicago Art Institute to give the first lecture in the Norma U. Lifton Memorial Series and to choose a topic related to a work in the collection of the Art Institute itself. It took me no time at all to settle on La Grande Jatte, a painting that had always interested me, as had Seurat's oeuvre in general. As I sat down to write my lecture, somewhere in the back of my mind a memory stirred of Bloch's interpretation of the painting as the representation of a kind of late nineteenth-century suburban hell, "more Hades than Sunday," "a landscape of painted suicide." How different this was from the conventional representation of La Grande Jatte as a nostalgic scene of enjoyable recreation on the banks of the Seine! And how much more in tune with the actual details of Seurat's innovative canvas. Repeated viewing confirmed this dark and politically charged interpretation of the painting, a reading against the grain of most prevailing art-historical wisdom. Once again, it seemed to me precisely in the formal construction of the work, the so-called "aesthetic" choices made by Seurat, that its political implications were inscribed, its significance as the pictorial critique of a specific historical and social situation was located.