Art as Spectacle
Images of the Entertainer since Romanticism
Naomi Ritter
360 pages
6.25 x 9.50

Formats available:
Hardcover   $55.00 SH
ISBN: 978-0-8262-0719-7

About the Book

Why do images of entertainers abound in European literature and art since Romanticism? From Baudelaire to Picasso, from Daumier to Fellini, mimes, clowns, aerialists, and jesters recur in major works by continental artists. In Art as Spectacle, Naomi Ritter investigates this phenomenon and offers explanations that transcend the array of works discussed. Her analysis implies much about the triangle of creator, work, and audience that inevitably controls art.

Although a broadly comparative study underlies Art as Spectacle, the book focuses mainly on examples from Germany and France. Three areas of argument-identification, primitivism, and transcendence-account for the performer's ubiquity in the arts of the last two centuries. Ritter shows that writers, painters, choreographers, and filmmakers have persistently identified with the entertainer, whose roots lie in primitive ritual: a source of all art. Accordingly, the artist also sees the player as morally or spiritually elevated.

With three chapters on literature, a chapter comparing poetry to painting, and a chapter each on dance, the visual arts, and film, Art as Spectacle offers unprecedented scope on a compelling topic in comparative studies. By integrating such varied material into an original commentary on the image of the entertainers, this book provides an invaluable resource for all the disciplines it touches.


Naomi Ritter is Professor of German at the University of Missouri-Columbia. She is also the author of House and Individual.


"This is clearly a scrupulously researched, deeply considered study. It engages an important topic with a breadth that should make it uniquely useful to anyone who seeks to understand the place of the popular theater in the artistic imagination."--Theatre Journal


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