In 2013 French essayist and historian Marc Fumaroli, member of the Académie française in Paris, delivered a Paula G. Manship lecture to students and faculty in the College of Art & Design and the LSU community. His lecture, “What Language to Say the Arts? French Rhetoric and German Aesthetics in the Eighteenth Century,” has now been published in a bilingual English-French edition by LSU Press.
Taking its cue from Horace’s saying, “As is painting, so is poetry” (“Ut pictura poesis”), What Language to Say the Arts? revisits the genesis of the “conceptual turn” in art. Fumaroli argues that the roots of this transition run deeper than the 20th-century conceptualism of Marcel Duchamp and Andy Warhol. Rather, the origins of conceptual art can be found in the emergence of aesthetics as a distinct branch of philosophy in 18th-century Germany, a time when writers, such as Lessing, Baumgarten, Winckelmann, and Kant, tried to analyze art from a purely intellectual perspective. These thinkers positioned themselves in opposition to another, older school of thought based on a poetic approach to the appreciation of art that harkens back to classical antiquity. Fumaroli contends that this classical tradition’s emphasis on pleasure and the sensual enjoyment of art is better suited than high-minded intellectualism to close the perceived distinction between artistic practice and language.
On the occasion of the launch of the publication, Professors Suzanne Marchand (history), Rick Ortner (painting and drawing), and Darius A. Spieth (art history) participated in a round table discussion in the event room of the LSU Book Store on March 9, 2016. The event was hosted by the Program in Comparative Literature at LSU. Under the motto “Bridging the Gap between Word and Image,” the three participants reviewed and discussed Fumaroli’s ideas and reminisced about his campus visit. Spieth, who also translated the text into English, was especially pleased by the large turnout of freshmen students from his introduction to art course (ART 1001) to this event.
Copies of What Language to Say the Arts? are available for purchase at LSU Press at lsupress.org/books/detail/what-language-to-say-the-arts. Click here for more information about Fumaroli and his original lecture presented on November 4, 2013.