The Visual World of French Theory

Figurations

Sarah Wilson

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This revelatory book focuses on a remarkable series of encounters between the most prominent French philosophers of the 1960s and 1970s—Sartre, Deleuze, Bourdieu, and Foucault among them—and the artists of their times, most particularly the protagonists of the Narrative Figuration movement. Each encounter involved either a mutual engagement or the writing of critical texts or catalogue prefaces—texts that illuminate not only the work of the artists but also the production of the philosopher-writer concerned.

Although the protagonists of “French theory” are universally known and studied, their thought is presented without a sense of contiguity, chronology, or context in translation, while the artists with whom they engaged are virtually unknown outside the French-speaking world. This account restores the lived context of artistic production. What Bourdieu called “cultural competence” is seen to be essential for these particular philosophers, and Sarah Wilson shows that it is through them that the figurative art of 1970s France can be introduced to the audience it deserves.

Sarah Wilson is professor of modern art at the Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London.

“Wilson’s reappraisal [is] particularly timely…there are many delightful rediscoveries in this book, within both the fields of theory and of painting, as Wilson digs up forgotten texts and suppressed paintings to create a lively portrait of the years flanking the events of May 1968…..Wilson’s book is saturated with colour images, which manage to evoke the visual culture of the years she describes… [this is] a welcome invitation to art historians to re-examine their relationship to critical theory and to look at the neglected work of France during this period.”—James Boaden, The Burlington Magazine

“Wilson’s study provides an opportunity to consider yet again the vexed relationship between word and image, this time within the heated and crackling context of French politics.”—Tom Huhn, Art in America

"Highly recommended."—D.A. Siedell, Choice

Shortlisted for the 2012 R.H. Gapper Book Prize awarded by the Society for French Studies (UK Award)
ISBN: 9780300162813
Publication Date: October 19, 2010
240 pages, 7 1/2 x 10
10 b/w + 120 color illus.
The World Goes Pop

Edited by Jessica Morgan and Flavia Frigeri; With contribut

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