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Spectacular Realities: Early Mass Culture in Fin-de-Siècle Paris
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Spectacular Realities: Early Mass Culture in Fin-de-Siècle Paris

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  96 Ratings  ·  7 Reviews
During the second half of the nineteenth century, Paris emerged as the entertainment capital of the world. The sparkling redesigned city fostered a culture of energetic crowd-pleasing and multi-sensory amusements that would apprehend and represent real life as spectacle.

Vanessa R. Schwartz examines the explosive popularity of such phenomena as the boulevards, the mass pres
Paperback, 244 pages
Published August 3rd 1999 by University of California Press (first published December 26th 1997)
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Emily B
May 14, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone who likes cool stuff
Shelves: history
This is the best book on 19th century Paris morgues and wax museums that you probably will ever read.
Nov 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Schwartz’s Spectacular Realities shows how visual culture in fin de siècle Paris focused predominantly on recreating, or to use her somewhat cute term “re-presenting,” the real or everyday (this, of course, contrasts with merely representing reality). More than this, these presentations of the real were meant for mass consumption, and focused largely on current events. Schwartz locates the roots of this visual culture in the activities and visual experiences of the flâneur. Often presumed to be ...more
Apr 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Vanessa R. Schwartz, an assistant Professor of history at American University, conceived of this work as her dissertation for the history department at Berkeley. It has been revised and expanded into this current volume. The book itself is organized into five chapters and includes a lengthy introduction and conclusion. Each chapter builds on the previous as the author constructs her argument to explain the formation of a new mass culture transcending class and gender in fin de siecle Paris. She ...more
Mar 06, 2014 rated it liked it
A fascinating discussion of spectacle in/of Parisian boulevards at the fin de siecle. Drawing on an eclectic archive of guidebooks, memoirs, and museum exhibition histories, she argues that interrelated forms of visual entertainment--including the morgue, wax museum, panorama, and early cinema--worked alongside the press in creating and pleasing a public, while co-constructing an idea of modern Paris and a standard by which "realistic" representation would be judged. She takes a democratic appro ...more
Aug 27, 2012 rated it really liked it

I am not a French historian so my background knowledge of this topic was limited but this book was fascinating. Her thesis centers around the historical concept of spectacle and how that was used to develop a new culture at the end of the 19th century in Paris. She focuses on five areas that defined this new culture: the boulevard, the newspaper, the morgue, the wax museum, and the development of cinema. The chapter on the morgue was so interesting, I couldn't stop reading. This book was well w
May 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: pretentious grad students, Francophiles, even that schmuck who raves about Moulin Rouge
Fascinating discussion of the neurosis, pageantry, display, and beauty of turn of the century Paris. The highlights include the culture of flaneurs (the idle strollers on the Parisian streets), the Paris morgue, and J'Accuse, the terrifying WWI documentary staring many soon-to-be ghosts from the German Front.

An in-depth, engaging look at a particular place and time.
Jan 09, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Film Students and Film Historians
This is a great glimpse into the early days of spectacle entertainment in Paris.
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