The following essay is part of the Los Angeles Review of Books special series «No Crisis»: a look at the state of critical thinking and writing — literary interpretation, art history, and cultural studies — in the 21st century. Click here for the full series.
T. J. CLARK begins the first long essay in this book with a measured but keen sense of drama, reporting two major historical events while gesturing to pressing issues offstage: On October 16, 1793 (or 25 Vendémiaire Year 2), “a hastily completed painting by Jacques-Louis David, of Marat, the martyred hero of the revolution […] was released into the public realm.” At midday on that same day, “Marie-Antoinette was guillotined. Michelet tells us that her death, so long demanded by Hébert and the Paris wards (the so-called sections), in the event went off…
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