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Defiant laughter: humour and the aesthetics of place in late 19th century Montmartre

Brigstocke, Julian 2012. Defiant laughter: humour and the aesthetics of place in late 19th century Montmartre. Cultural Geographies 19 (2) , pp. 217-235. 10.1177/1474474011414637

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Humour was at the core of the spatial imaginary of the emerging French avant-garde of the 1880s. But what was the specific role of different forms of humour in their attempts to re-imagine urban place and community? In this article I develop a non-representational historical geography of the aesthetics of place in fin-de-siècle Montmartre. The article analyses how Montmartre artists used humour in order to inject new life and vitality into the urban environment. The ambivalence of humour made it a powerful device through which to experiment with creating a novel experience of place and stylizing an affirmative urban ethos. Two modes of humour in particular were predominant: irony and pantomime buffoonery. Through irony, they attempted to create an experience of place that encompassed the contradictory and fugitive nature of the modern city. In buffoonery, they found a way of affirming the city’s potential at the same time as remaining alive to its suffering and violence. In combination, this urban ethos can be theorized as a form of ‘affirmative pessimism’.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Geography and Planning (GEOPL)
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GF Human ecology. Anthropogeography
Uncontrolled Keywords: Affect; affirmative pessimism; art of living; avant-garde; biopolitics; Chat Noir; humour; Montmartre; non-representational history.
Publisher: SAGE
ISSN: 1474-4740
Funders: ESRC
Last Modified: 07 Nov 2019 09:05

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