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Alex Weintraub on Art History in light of Mallarmé: a review of Stark and Pop

6 September 2020

Art History in light of Mallarmé

Alex Weintraub (Columbia University) 23/AW1

Review of:

Trevor Stark, Total Expansion of the Letter: Avant-Garde Art and Language after Mallarmé,Cambridge: MIT Press, 2020, 440pp., 10 col. plates, 60 b. & w. illus., $£45.00 hdbk, ISBN 9780262043717.

Andrei Pop, A Forest of Symbols: Art, Science, and Truth in the Long Nineteenth Century, Cambridge: MIT Press, 15 col. plates, 101 b. & w. illus., £25.00 hdbk, ISBN 9781935408369

Abstract: A review essay of two recently published books, both of which consider the art historical legacy of the French poet, Stephane Mallarmé: Trevor Stark’s Total Expansion of the Letter: Avant-Garde, Art and Language After Mallarmé (MIT Press, 2020) and Andrei Pop’s A Forest of Symbols: Art, Science, and Truth in the Long Nineteenth Century (MIT Press, 2019). Pop and Stark advance sharply contrasting theses about what is often referred to as “the linguistic turn” in studies of Modernist art. Whereas Stark finds in Mallarmé a skeptical theory of language that now predominates in studies of early twentieth-century art, Pop turns to the poet precisely in order to reconsider the field’s commitments to re-describing pictures in linguistic terms. 

Key Words: Stéphane Mallarmé, Manet, Cubism, Symbolism, Theory

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