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Episode Two: Joseph Cermatori and Emmelyn Butterfield-Rosen, Baroque Modernity and Modern Art & The Remaking of Human Disposition


2 Authors, 2 Books is a public humanities podcast created, executive produced, and edited by Tavi González and brought to you through the Suzy Newhouse Center for the Humanities at Wellesley College. 2 Authors, 2 Books is funded by a Mellon Foundation public-humanities grant and the Public Humanities Institute at the University of New Hampshire. This episode was produced by Abigail Martinage, transcripted by Sophia Pan, and guest edited by Ryan Homsey. 

Listen to this episode on Apple Podcasts or download the episode here.

2 Authors, 2 Books: Episode Two (transcript)

This transcript has been edited for clarity

[Teaser trailer:]

Emmelyn Butterfield-Rosen: I had more clarity as a naive youth. [laughs].


[V.O.]: This is 2 Authors, 2 Books, a public humanities podcast created by Tavi González and brought to you through the Suzy Newhouse Center for the  Humanities at Wellesley College. 2 Authors, 2 Books is funded by a Mellon Foundation public-humanities grant and the Public Humanities Institute at the University of New Hampshire.

Tavi is a poet and professor at Wellesley College, where he teaches courses on American queer literature and culture, British and American modernism, and the twentieth-century novel.

Today, Tavi talks with Joseph Cermatori and Emmelyn Butterfield-Rosen. Joseph is an associate professor of English at Skidmore College, where he focuses on performance studies, with an eye towards drama, opera, and musical theater. He studies how queer theory and the theories of aesthetics intersect with this area of performance. He'll be discussing his 2021 book, Baroque Modernity: An Aesthetics of Theater. Our other guest, Emmelyn Butterfield-Rosen, is the associate director of the Williams Graduate Program in the History of Art at the Clark Art Institute. Emmelyn specializes in modern art, especially focusing on how histories of art, biology, and psychology intersect, and, particularly, how those studies combine with the history of sexuality. She will be talking about her 2021 book, Modern Art and the Remaking of Human Disposition. Both Joseph and Emmelyn were finalists for the Modernist Studies Association First Book Prize. 

OG: Okay, thank you for joining me for the second episode of 2 Authors, 2 Books. I'm very excited to have you guys in conversation. I'm Tavi González at Wellesley College. If you could just introduce yourselves really briefly, then we will start with the icebreaker!

EB: My name is Emmelyn Butterfield-Rosen. I'm an art historian. Currently, I teach in the graduate program in the history of art (the Williams Graduate Program in the History of Art) in Williamstown at the Clark Art Institute. I'm about to move to the Institute of Fine Arts at NYU. I'm delighted to be here.

JC: And I'm Joseph Cermatori. I'm an associate professor of English at Skidmore College, where my research and teaching focuses on modern and contemporary theater drama and performance, the relationship of literature to philosophy, critical theory, and other related topics. It's so great to be here! Thanks for inviting us.

OG: You're welcome! I'm very excited to have this conversation. So the first part of this podcast is the icebreaker, which I usually draw from the Proust questionnaire, and I asked you guys to look over some of the questions. So, Emmelyn, do you want to start us off with one of your questions? Which one did you select?

EB: Most overrated virtue . . . moderation.

JC: I said the same thing! I also chose the most overrated virtue, the classical virtue of temperance.

EB: Oh! [laughs]. So, we’re pretty much on the same page.

JC: Totally. We absolutely are. I’m a big believer in Dan Savage, everything in moderation, including moderation.

OG: That sounds appropriate, considering that your book is on the baroque, Joe.

JC: Right. I also love a good cocktail, so temperance . . . I mean, temperance is for the birds.

OG: Exactly. I guess I'll use the same motto as I had before, which is, “It's never so bad, it can't get any worse,” which is my very pessimistic adulting approach to life these days. I'm a cautious pessimist, I should say, which, you know, has served me pretty well so far. So thank you again for joining us. So, the structure of this interview, as you know, is a mutual interview. I wanted to get you guys into conversation about your respective books. And I guess, I have some questions that I wanted to share with you, and I also wanted to have you also, you know, direct the conversation as you see fit. So I guess I'll start with the first question, which is the one that I thought was really interesting to me. So Emmelyn, as you know, when we started talking about inviting you to this pod, you had actually selected Joe as your interlocutor, and I was wondering if you could say a little bit more about what you saw in Joe's work and your own and how you see that conversation, or how you saw that conversation?

EB: Well, I sort of was eager to be in conversation with someone else who's not an art historian because I enjoy dialogue across disciplines, and I thought, especially in this context with modernist studies that is interdisciplinary, and I thought that was great. I hadn't read Joe's book at the time, but I was just attracted to the title because, you know, I think I'm very focused on body language, corporeal posture, and gesture, and I thought that gesture might be central to a book about the baroque, and I was right. I also saw that it talked about Four Saints in Three Acts—I always mix up the three and the four—and that's just a work that I find extremely fascinating. I've always been interested in Florine Stettheimer’s work; it was one of the first things that I wrote about when I was starting in graduate school, so I just felt a pull towards that.

JC: That's fabulous. I also was amazed to see all the many overlaps between our books. I mean, we have different theoretical and methodological assemblages, definitely, but there were so many shared interests and concerns. And I loved that you ended with Nijinsky and the Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun. I love that you incorporated performance into your study. I wanted to ask about that maybe a little bit later, about what motivated that shift, other than maybe just attraction, desire to write about it, but I thought that that was really fabulous to see how we were both kind of culminating with this kind of- this set of studies about, you know, for example, the Ballets Russes or these kinds of Americans who are trying to approximate what the Ballets Russes were trying to do, bringing together a kind of a total work of art, somehow different than what Wagner had conceived. So I thought that was really amazing, in terms of just a shared set of concerns.

EB: Yeah, I think that my interest in ending with . . . to me, you know, it seems extremely natural to include the history of performance in the history of art once you change the metric to something like body language and gesture, because that's a metric that kind of crosses media. I think that's also not a particularly innovative idea for me. It's like, baked into the foundation of the discipline, it was something that Aby Warburg, you know, he was interested in performance and static media, and he kind of went between them rather seamlessly, and so, to me, it felt very natural. And actually, my book grew out of trying to understand the ballet, and I worked backwards. That was the first thing that I was really, really invested in. For you, was there one work that sort of was the core that everything grew out of?

JC: I'd say actually, for me, it was the Nietzsche writings on baroque, which so disoriented and upended my perceived understanding of it, and the challenge of trying to reckon with how he was attempting to understand Wagner as a species of the baroque’s endurance and its potential return—so really counterintuitive on its face—that really obsessed me for a while, and at the same time, [I was] really trying to make sense of Walter Benjamin's book on the German Trauerspiel, which was so opaque, so those two things were really the kind of primary obsessions that drove the book, I think. I was interested to hear you say that ballet was one of the . . . I was going to ask you a question like, “What was the first case study that you envisioned?” And I thought that almost because the way that you're describing this complete reorganization of human disposition during this period, it reminded me of something like Martha Graham, like the kind of shift of the center of gravity in ballet downward, you know—she seemed a kind of a presiding spirit over the book, even though she doesn't show up in the book, so I was curious to see that ballet was really what motivated the ideas at their outset. That's really fascinating.

EB: Just the presentation of the body in profile in this very emphatic way that I saw in that ballet where, you know, because they're living bodies, and the posture is so visibly contorted when it's applied to a living body and you see that staged, the kind of problematics and the artificiality of that and its strangeness become, you know, hyper present. So that's how I became interested in that, and I had to work backwards to form a kind of historiographic framework for what is this presentation of the body and ways of thinking about bas-relief and Egyptian art, and that's kind of how I got to work trying to build a history of art framework for what Nijinsky was doing.

JC: Could I expand a bit upon the claim that I make in the book that the baroque names something like a stubborn underlying condition of modernity, one whose latency runs in theater from the time of Diderot to that of Ibsen? And this also seems like a point of similarity between our two books, Emmelyn, is that in the introduction to Baroque Modernity, one of the things I'm trying to think about is a very influential claim that was made in theater studies by the German speaking Hungarian critic Péter Szondi, who argued that the concept of drama itself is a historical concept, a historical apparatus that emerges in the time of the Renaissance. So, kind of similar to the claim that you make in your book about the normative dispositions of the human figure with the Contrapposto emerging around the time of, for example, Da Vinci’s sketches of the human body. Szondi made the argument that the concept of drama emerges during the time of the Renaissance and is the creation of a newly self-conscious organism, the human being, who creates drama as a medium to fix a picture of himself that's entirely rooted in the structure of interpersonal relationships. And this concept of drama presupposes a human subject that's entirely capable of self-disclosure, that understands itself and knows itself, can speak fully in response to its own conscious desires. So, it's the moi that you cite so often in your book.

EB: This is fascinating, and I'm not familiar with this concept of drama. Is that a concept of drama that's explicitly or implicitly opposed to Greek tragedy?

JC: I think what Szondi might say is that it emerges in the Renaissance through Renaissance re-readings of, for example, Aristotle's writings on tragedy. It's a kind of a renaissance, neoclassical, neo-Aristotelian concept of drama. And the argument that Szondi, I think, very influentially made was that that concept gets refined over the course of the Renaissance into the 17th century, and by the time of Diderot, Michael Fried's great avatar, has achieved a certain autonomy, and the way that it's achieved its autonomy is by exorcising, from the medium, all of the moments of direct address to the spectator, including the prologue, the chorus, songs, epilogues, even moments of aside, so all of those moments that might invite the temptation to a certain frontality, even if it's the most oblique form of frontality. So, you know, the argument I'm trying to make in the book is that there's been a certain normative conception of drama that emerges during the Renaissance that seeks to kind of eliminate or eradicate all of those potentially frontal moments in the service of consolidating a normative conception of the human. Szondi’s argument was that that conception of the human and that conception of drama fell into crisis really in the 1880s, around the time of Ibsen, which is close to the 1870s, close to that Manet, Courbet moment. I've tried to link that in the book and in some of my other writings, less to the kind of Darwinian and Freudian context that you're offering and more towards a general crisis in the understanding of communication, a kind of linguistic turn, that if words don't fully encompass the meanings that we presuppose them to have, then this concept of full self-disclosure upon which drama is predicated can't be operative any longer. So what I've been trying to do with this book is to show how there was already an understanding of that inoperativity of language in the baroque period, tied to the notion of allegory, and that this concept of drama comes into being and kind of attempts to suppress that allegorical dimension of language. And when drama itself falls into crisis in the 1870s or 1880s, those allegorical energies (to use the lack of a better term) that are still residual and never really fully suppressed kind of reemerge, in a sense. So I think we have a slight difference of emphasis, but I think we're charting a very similar historiography.

EB: I think so, too. I mean, the distinction that you [made was,] to me, very, very helpful for understanding your argument. It was in the Nietzsche chapter on basically just—and maybe this is too telegraphic to distill your entire argument, but—that it is parabasis as opposed to mimesis.

JC: Yeah, address rather than representation.

EB: Yeah, that was very helpful to me. I guess, the question: for you, I guess, you're associating moments of address, parabasis, with frontality. As a formal mechanism in visual art, one of my larger questions and one that I failed to actually work out is: frontality does not mean “to be facing” in the way in which I have defined and understood it, it could very much mean—there's a form of facing in bodily orientation, but to be in pure profile is to be in a posture of frontality. A posture of frontality means that there is no, in the art historical definition that I work with—which is this kind of absurd, Danish art historian, classical art historian Julius Lange, who defines the term frontality and introduces it to the art historical lexicon—and he describes frontality as a visual strategy before the invention of a visual form for, as you were mentioning before this, the idea of a figure with a moi—a me—but it basically means the absence of lateral twisting or torsion in the body from the genitals to the top of the head, and so there's no obliquity. Frontality just means the absence of obliquity, so it could be a figure in pure profile facing away from the viewer and not addressing them. Of course, though, that perfect non-address can be perceived as a form of theatrical address and acknowledgement. And the word for me that's maybe more important than theatricality is exhibitionism, like as an actual kind of psychological diagnostic term, it's also in exactly this moment, I think—1877—when it's coined. The concept of exhibitionism and the display of the body in ways that the audience can perceive clearly in its silhouette and contour was very clearly linked with exhibitionism in Afternoon of a Fawn. And I think there's also that element with the figure who's so important for me (I call her the Mistress of the Monkey in the Grande Jatte), and the way in which she's standing, in the precise posture for the bustle to be exhibited most prominently, could be seen as a theatrical, self-aware, exhibitionistic kind of frontal form of address. She's not addressing the audience with her face, but rather with her ass.

JC: Yeah, yeah, that's fabulous. And I think that you really get to that. You have such a wonderful section, particularly on the idea of raideur, the stiffness of frontality. And in my own book, I seem to recall that I make the point that it's not always necessary for this moment of optic coordination between the performer and the audience—you know, the face of the actor making eye contact with the face of the audience—for there to be a scene of address, although that's kind of the typical Brechtian maneuver.

EB: Yes.

JC: I try to make the point that a certain gesture, completely divorced from any visual orientation of gaze, can address the audience in that way. A gesture can be a moment of a returned gaze, despite where the actor's face is looking.

EB: The Klimt chapter was more difficult for me, I would say. It was the most difficult for me by far, because I don't find Klimt to be as complex, ambivalent, and dialectical an artist as Nijinsky or Seurat. But actually, I think because of that, it was in some way the chapter where I had a kind of methodological breakthrough—that sounds pompous, but—where the cognitive linguistic thesis of some of the mechanisms that I was trying to understand became clearest to me, and I was able to understand and distill some sort of substratum of my unconscious thinking about what was going on. And sometimes I think it takes a lack of subtlety, a great lack of subtlety, to kind of have certain mechanisms worked out with such clarity.

JC: That was a chapter I noticed you really incorporated a lot of discussion of metaphor and those metaphors that we live by.

EB: Yeah, yeah. Embodied cognition theory became quite important to me in that chapter, and the significance of weight metaphors for the concept of thinking, which I believe is kind of underlying the response to these kinds of postures that is elicited, are these kind of unconscious inferential structures. And methodologically, what do I do with that? I mean, that's kind of a deus ex machina methodologically from the way that I was trained, and I don't know, I sense that my impression—and I would be interested in what you think, Joe—is, I think I'm a more conservative kind of—I don't know if the word conservative [is right]—but maybe more empirical historian and less a theorist than you.

JC: Well, a few things. I think you really marry a certain sense of historicist contextual detail marshaling, really impressively, a whole wide ranging set of discourses: perception history, criticism, new understandings of psychology, of the body, of evolutionary science, all of these things. You marry that historicist contextualization method with an amazing formalist ability to read these works and describe them and make meaning out of the formal configurations of them, the details of them, so that was really impressive for me. My own work methodologically has been really influenced by Benjamin's critique of historicism. I draw really amply in my reading and in my scholarship on historicist writings, but from a writing standpoint myself, I tend to think of myself as working in a more Marxist tradition or more speculative tradition, but, it did strike me that there were slight differences in the ways that we went about approaching our materials. Not slight differences, big differences.

EB: I mean, you come in your prologue saying that this topic came to you through an engagement with contemporary art and your involvement with contemporary art, and in your exit, in your epilogue, you're talking about Jack Smith and our situatedness and kind of ecological crisis and financial crisis. So you answer to our world more than I do because I feel incapacitated to do so, so I admire that in your work, in connecting this kind of historical episteme so clearly to the present. Can you say more about that? Because I thought it was really interesting.

JC: Thanks. Yeah, I mean, that's just an instinct on my part methodologically, about wanting to find, in the past, those moments of openness or those moments of answerability that make it responsive to what we're looking at from the present. I'm not trying to look at it from the standpoint of reconstructing how it really was, though I do acknowledge the importance of that as a different methodology, I'm trying to look at it from the vantage point of somebody who has an admitted bias towards it, an admitted perspective towards it. And I'm also trying to offer just a kind of, in another sense, almost like a Nietzschean genealogy, a sense that there is a connection between the past and the present that's been kind of papered over or covered over, that looking at the past through the eyes of the present can reveal more than, I think, even more than the kind of political questions of our current present moment. Though, the origins of the book came from just my professional background as a working performance critic, a working theater critic, you know, trying to understand people who are making performance right now, and also trying to understand its connections to the past, that “nothing comes from nowhere” was my instinct about it. I wanted to also know, for you, Emmelyn, was there anything that had to kind of drop out? Was there anything that you really wanted to include that had to fall by the wayside? I'm thinking of the process that led to the writing of the dissertation version of this book, and there were like, three or four different ideas I wanted to incorporate, and you just can’t include everything. Was there anything that you were excited about studying or looking at, that, if you had another chapter to add, that you would have wanted to include?

EB: No, actually. It's a good question. Being someone who studies the history of psychoanalysis, you know, the question of "what is a case," and "what is exemplarity," and "how do we make broad inferences from specific examples," just methodologically, I'm very, very—this is the word that I'm always like screaming at my students, like, writing on top of their papers in large pink letters—concrete. It was extremely important to be very concretely rooted in objects and have the argument unfold as a kind of exposition of specific objects, but there's a certain kind of density to these objects. I did not encounter another example of an object with that kind of density. I mean, sheer textural density was a word that Hofmannsthal used to describe Afternoon of a Fawn, and I think that all of these works have that, and so there are many layers that allow, while still staying incredibly rooted to one object and its history so that everything kind of ramifies back to the concrete. There's a lot of layers that allow the different pieces to come into play in these works because they're very densely auto-referential and also kind of works based on other works. I don't know what that would have been, or if one hasn't announced itself to me as like an absence, but obviously, certain of the formal strategies, like the sense of weightlessness, the de-emphasis on hands and feet, the lack of torsion and twist, they're kind of formally quite diffuse strategies. But an object that uses those strategies and reflects on them is a rarer thing.

JC: Oh, and your book also has, I think, as an aesthetic object, it has the real beauty of going from, as you say in the introduction, from "how is it standing" with Poseuses, and then to sitting with the Beethoven-Denkmal, and then to lying down. [laughs]. I mean, it kind of recapitulates that triptych structure that you see in Poseuses. There's something quite beautiful about that. It's a nice through line.

EB: That only came in the end, you know, me tying things up with a bow. That’s me being a little, you know, cute and neat on my part, but that was not part of the structure, the conceptualization of the book. It was something that kind of clarified afterwards.

JC: That makes sense, but I found it convincing. I found it really [laughs] gives it a nice degree of finish and polish. I thought that was great.

EB: Were there things that you left out? I feel your project could go on. There is so much that could be incorporated into your project.

JC: There were two things that I wondered about whether I should include. And also because, again, it's not clear, when you're writing a first academic book, it's not always clear what the structure of it should be. I knew that I wanted to include . . .

EB: Or a second!

JC: [laughs]. Yes.

EB: I think I had more clarity as a naïve youth.

JC: I think that it was always clear to me that I wanted to include Nietzsche and Mallarmé and Benjamin and Stein, because for me, the book is as much about a kind of a theater historical and a theater theoretical backstory to the work that, for example, deconstruction would do, and those figures are all incredibly significant for the work that Derrida did. Barbara Johnson, for example, as well . . . that was very clear. There were other things that I wondered about. For example, when I came across this archival find of Thornton Wilder's essay on the baroque, I thought maybe there should be a whole chapter just on that. And then I also thought, because I wanted the book to have a queer subtext, if not necessarily a queer line of argumentation at the forefront of it, I thought perhaps about W. H. Auden’s Age of Anxiety, and then also talking about how that had been turned into its own symphony by Bernstein, and then turned into a ballet as well. But I think I came to the conclusion at the end that, you know, by the time Auden was writing The Age of Anxiety and subtitling it as a baroque eclogue, that something seemed to have changed. Like, by then, it was somehow fashionable, maybe, or somehow acceptable to claim this kind of baroque contiguity, between early twentieth-century modern art or writing and seventeeth-century, where I found something more exciting about the idea of the baroque as a kind of an illicit, or forbidden, prehistory, you know, so I think at that point, I decided to leave that to another project. Maybe I'll work on Auden in some other context.

EB: Do you feel the same about Jack Smith?

JC: Well, Jack Smith . . . I just felt like there was way too much distance between the 1930s and the 1960s. I couldn't justify that. I know my book is making huge historical jumps at every moment, but in terms of the four cases, it felt much more concrete to be able to say: I'm going to root it in this period between the 1870s and the 1930s when the term seems to undergo a really profound transformation. That seems more condensed, you know.

EB: I agree, but I would love to read you on Jack Smith. [laughs].

JC: [laughs]. I definitely want to write about Jack Smith someday.

EB: Will you? I mean, is it something you're planning?

JC: It's not something I'm planning in the moment, but I definitely hope to. What do you really want to write about next? Or something that you want to write about, maybe not for next book, but anything that you feel like you really are excited to write about?

EB: Right now, in terms of a next kind of mother lode, I'm pulled in a number of different directions, and there's a lot of unfinished business with Darwin and me, the question of sexual selection, [but] because of the way in which I was tethered to objects in this book could not be explored, but you know, I'm kind of toying with the idea of doing a book, which is structured more around . . . I mean, I'm not toying with it, I'm doing it, I guess. I think it will be a more economical book that's kind of rooted around concepts rather than objects, kind of aesthetic design concepts coming out of this moment of like design hierarchy and judgment, and the way that those concepts are reconfigured or rejiggered in this moment, in the wake of Darwinian aesthetics. That is something that I felt that the work of this book and also another kind of piece that kind of came off of this book but is really closely related is an article that I wrote, called The hierarchy of genres and the hierarchy of life forms, which is about animacy and thinking about linguistic animacy hierarchies. Mel Chen's work really came very late in my process and explained something that I had been kind of banging my head against the wall trying to articulate for like, eight years about the hierarchy of genres in painting. So that was a more conceptual project, and this would be the same. It's just, it's growing out of it. Right now, in a much more circumscribed way, I am writing a review of the first biography of Bronislava Nijinska, Nijinsky’s sister. Lynn Garafola wrote this really, really important biography, which is kind of the first time that she has been given her due. And I'm quite interested in the concept of siblinghood and brother-sister relationships in thinking about Nijinska and sexuality, marriage, family structures. That's what I feel a deep desire to do . . . and to kind of, like, read Russian peasant wedding rituals all day long.

JC: [laughs]. That sounds awesome. She plays such a fascinating role, a kind of a little bit in the wings role in your chapter on Nijinsky in terms of your brief description of the two of them kind of creating the basic ideas for the choreography together at home. So interesting and intriguing, so I'll be so curious to see your book.

EB: I think the question with a figure like Bronislava Nijinska is, you know, how to do a feminist . . . you know, the feminist impulse to kind of not include Nijinsky in the story. But obviously, I'm very interested in the kind of complete imbrication of the two. I see her key works as answering Nijinsky’s works, and she is really fascinating. And it's a short piece. I mean, I often write reviews for Artforum, and these are like reservoirs of pleasure for me and I get to do kind of research that's not- and I could see going, you know, down the garden path with this, doing more work than they can take in, but it's just, it's very fascinating material. And, you know, there hasn't been this archive of information until Lynn Garafola did this, so I hope there'll probably be a lot more work on Bronislava Nijinska now, as there should be.

JC: How exciting. That's wonderful.

EB: What about you? What are you working on?

JC: Well, right now, I'm working . . . After having found this Thornton Wilder essay on the baroque, I was invited to prepare a new, and much more comprehensive, annotated collection of his nonfiction, lectures, and essays, so I've been working on that for the past few years. And I'm hoping that I'll be getting to the end of that project by the end of this year. I spent last summer at the Beinecke kind of trawling through his archives, from published and un-anthologized nonfiction writings, but beyond that, I have a book project that I'm at the very, very beginnings of. I'm not sure if it's going to be a second book or maybe a book for later on down the line and if it will take me a long time to write. I'd really like to write about Pier Paolo Pasolini and about his engagements with theater. I want to say that your book is beautiful. I mean, it's . . . there's so much praise I want to heap on it. It's adventurous and compelling and persuasive.

EB: Thank you.

JC: And as I said before, there's such a density of contextual source work, and so many wonderful readings, and it's so richly footnoted. But it's also just such a beautiful book, my goodness. It made me so envious of art history as a discipline, with all the illustrations and even just the cover design with the detail of Poseuses and the font. It's a beautiful object.

EB: Thank you. Obviously, I mean, the images are the whole fun of it, and the pacing of the images, but you know, that is an albatross for our discipline, because it's a very, very complex and also expensive proposition to get all of the images, and it's like a whole industry in itself. I had someone. Luckily, I was able to have help with that process, but it's like, both logistically and financially from the institutions that I'm part of. But it makes us a very unwieldy, slow-moving field because of these images, but yeah. I think my favorite image in the book is the—I was so, so amazed and proud of myself when I found this—is the Vladimir Durov animal trainer who Nijinsky performed with . . . He became a scientific kind of animal trainer, but he was a really, really popular professional clown in Russia for children, and Nijinsky performed with him as a young child, and this amazing picture of him with the dog, Bisha, standing on his hind legs and smoking a cigarette . . . that's my favorite image in the book.

JC: I also thought all of the images of the Beethoven-Denkmal that were then translated into like laxative ads were, I mean, pretty great, pretty great. Pretty wild. There were some moments, I have to say, where I literally laughed out loud reading the book. You relate your argument with wit and a certain kind of knowingness, which is really lovely. And it's a real page turner.

EB: Thank you. Yeah, I mean, I could not believe those caricatures. I think that's one of the reasons why I love working in this period as well and why I would be very disappointed to work in a later period of time, because this is the golden age of caricature. And I mean, I see that as a form of visual analysis, that's really, really . . . There's nothing quite like it in terms of isolating aspects of works of art and how they're seen and kind of the most outrageous kind of trains of association. It's such a rich source base, and always my favorite, and it would be hard to imagine working in a period when this form of analysis of art . . . I mean, can you imagine? That's just not a form of analysis that we have now, encountering works of art, or even that existed, you know, past World War I, really.

JC: And also, just to the point that you were talking about before, you know, about the cost in terms of time and effort and energy and also money to acquire all the images and their permissions . . . that's a huge effort. And I wanted for there to be at least ten, at the very least, images in the book. Seems to be constantly making references to the visual . . .

EB: Yes.

JC: . . . in a book about the baroque, but, you know, in many literary studies monographs, you could do completely without that, so that was unusual for me.

OG: Yeah, that sounds interesting. What was your question, Emmelyn?

EB: Oh, no, I was just gonna say the images were helpful.

JC: I really loved that one of Wagner conducting the Ninth Symphony from within this kind of eighteenth-century Galli da Bibiena Margravial Opera House in Bayreuth. Just like a little glimpse as to what it may have looked like at the moment. Of course, I am speculating about the idea that Nietzsche may have developed some of his critique of Wagner as baroque in that moment, but it seemed a way to lend the certain concreteness or to create a kind of scene setting that can invite the reader in, an imaginative scene setting that can invite the reader in, in terms of the specific details of time and place. And so it was great that an image like that existed, that I could just use that.

EB: I loved that image. It was very revealing to me. I mean, the line “Das Ornamente fort,” that was a revelation to me, because I didn't really think of the Bayreuth. I’ve thought so much about the kind of stage mechanics of Bayreuth and the angles of observation and, yeah, just orientational angles and the way in which elimination of ornament on the theatrical body itself was so central to that, it kind of hadn't become cognizant for me. And that was because it inserts the theater into this whole lineage, I mean, and your connection to Loos, so that was a revelation. And then, of course, the picture cemented it. That was great. That was really interesting.

JC: Thanks. Thanks so much.

[V.O.]: You’ve been listening to Two Authors, Two Books, a public  humanities podcast created by Tavi González and brought to you through  the Suzy Newhouse Center for the Humanities at Wellesley College. Thanks for joining us.

OG: Yeah, thank you. Again, this has been a wonderful conversation. Thank you for letting me be a fly on the wall. And thank you for joining us on Two Authors, Two books. This is a wonderful exchange.