Public pantheons and exemplary men: A journey in the European imagination, c. 1790-1840
Title: Public pantheons and exemplary men: A journey in the European imagination, c. 1790-1840
Author: BOUWERS, Eveline G.
Citation: Florence, European University Institute, 2009
Series/Report no.: EUI PhD theses; Department of History and Civilization
The thesis argues that a European cultural history existed in those years that have been considered as the dawn of the ‘Age of Nationalism’. Although, early nineteenth-century pantheons can superficially be divided in two groups, a state-based and a culture-oriented selection, the dissertation shows that the division is more subtle as pantheon commissioners faced numerous similar problems. How could a canon, being a series of exemplary men, be selected that would flag rather than challenge the commissioner’s position as central symbolic reference and ‘national historian’? How to glorify men in cultures still thoroughly attached to conventional forms of Christianity and, even more challenging, in churches dedicated to, in Christian Europe universal, saints? Did a difference exist between pantheons located in Protestant, Catholic or bi-confessional countries, either in the range of exemplary men or in the balance between ancient and Christian symbolism traditionally used in political iconography?20 What style, roughly divided between Neoclassicism and romantic Gothic, was considered most suitable to give visual form to the ideas of a pantheon commissioner or appeal best to the target collective? How could elites, in an age in which the public sphere had started to open up, promote their pantheons through newspapers, provided this is what they wanted? These questions, which will be tackled in relation to every pantheon discussed in the thesis, can be classified under three headings: (i) the relationship between the exemplary men and the commissioner who formed the principal reference point of a pantheon, (ii) the rapport between religious and pagan/secular commemorative rituals as well as a pantheon’s aesthetics and (iii) the balance between nation and region or, more broadly, between political core and periphery. The dissertation is an account of the early nineteenth-century European journey of an ancient, but transformed, concept and its interaction with contemporary political culture. It is the story of how a pantheonic ideal type - roughly defined as a temple in which tribute is paid to the nation’s greatest men for the sake of stimulating emulation of their lives and actions - was adjusted to befit different recipient audiences. Simultaneously, the dissertation shows how, despite the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, the mechanism underlying ancien régime political symbolism and the importance it attached to notions of sanctity survived well into the nineteenth century.21 Moreover, it shows how public pantheons raised prior to 1848 remained, the veil of nationalist rhetoric notwithstanding, socio-politically and culturally eclectic stages intended to reproduce elites. Nor was the community of the dead itself always a democratic collective; occasionally, a commissioner actively sought to differentiate between his exemplary men. The question is, of course, whether did this not defeat the pantheonic principle by making some men more exemplary, and important, than others. As a result, the thesis argues that instead of appreciating early nineteenth-century pantheons as stages where collective ideas were communicated or performed, these monuments should be regarded as both cause and outcome of a ‘struggle for social domination’ and political power played out in a time of great societal transition and continued warfare between (infant) nation-states.22 Finally, the dissertation is the story of how the public pantheons of early nineteenth-century Europe interacted and how, seen in conjunction, they formed a network of power relations that has been downplayed by historians who focus on national peculiarities. Whichever ideological or cultural angle commissioners approached their pantheons from, the basic tenet of every early nineteenth-century public pantheon discussed in the thesis was the same: to phrase the interests of the Self through the vocabulary of the national Other at a time traditional forms of political or social authority eroded. The existence of an inherently conservative bend queries the modernity of these pantheons.
LC Subject Heading: Architecture -- Europe; Europe -- Civilization -- 1780-1840; Europe -- Intellectual life -- 1780-1840
Defense Date: 26/02/2009; Examining Board: Prof. Heinz-Gerhard Haupt (European University Institute) Prof. Alan Forrest (Universiy of York) Prof. Wessel Krul (University of Groningen) Prof. Jay Winter (Yale University)
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