Research

“The Painter and His Poets: Paul Gauguin and Interartistic Exchange.” PhD diss., The Graduate Center, City University of New York, 2021 (Expected).

Alfred Jarry (1873–1907), Autograph manuscript of three poems “after and for” Paul Gauguin, ca. 1893–94, Morgan Library & Museum, MA 22740, gift of the Heineman Foundation, 2019.

Many scholars have read the work of Symbolist painter Paul Gauguin through the tales of his travels to Tahiti (1891–93) in Noa Noa, despite the fact that they are an artful fiction, written upon his return to France in collaboration with the writer Charles Morice. Instead of interpreting Gauguin’s work through the lens of his biography, this study seeks to elucidate the nature and conditions of the cultural field in which the artist worked by examining objects and texts that he exchanged with three of his Symbolist literary peers: gifts Gauguin gave to poet, critic, and leader of the Symbolist movement Stéphane Mallarmé; the artist’s collaboration with poet and essayist Charles Morice on his travel journal Noa Noa; and three poems after Gauguin’s paintings that novelist-poet-playwright Alfred Jarry gave to the artist.

Although Gauguin’s gifts to Mallarmé have been seen merely as an attempt to curry favor, chapter one shows how the artist engaged with the poet’s thinking about myth and authorship. Chapter two examines Noa Noa as a collaborative effort between the artist and Morice, rather than separating the contributions of each as in previous scholarship; it proposes that Mallarmé’s Les dieux antiques was a model for their collaboration and argues that Gauguin’s prints that accompanied Noa Noa were more Mallarméan than the text. Seeking to move beyond a biographical reading, chapter three reinterprets Ia Orana Maria, Manao tupapau (L’esprit veille), and L’homme à la hache in the light of the artist’s working process and Jarry’s poetic interpretation. In contrast to selective readings of individual poems by previous scholars, this chapter studies each poem in its entirety, elucidating the experience of the painting that Jarry captures. It also illuminates how contemporary ideas about sexuality and the occult informed both Gauguin’s compositions and Jarry’s interpretations.

The dissertation argues that by examining the social nature of Gauguin’s art we can better identify the cultural conditions within which the artist worked and how he negotiated this milieu. To do so, it draws upon the theoretical framework of nineteenth-century semiotician Charles Sanders Peirce, joining scholars in archaeology and anthropology who have reassessed his legacy in recent years and applied his semiotic theory to their investigations of material objects.

“Review of The Deaths of Henri Regnault, by Marc Gotlieb.” caa.reviews, December 11, 2017. https://doi.org/10.3202/caa.reviews.2017.190.

Henri Regnault, Salome, 1870, Oil on canvas, 160 x 102.9 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 16.95, Gift of George F. Baker, 1916

The French academic painter Henri Regnault’s life and legacy straddles two eras. He practiced his art during the liberal regime of the Second Empire, but died during the Franco-Prussian war, to have his history written during the Third Republic’s “moral order”. Written during the “law and order” climate of the Trump Administration, this review questions the effectiveness and relevance of the author’s strategies used to write this account of Regnault’s life.

“How Big Data Can Expose a Nascent White (House) Nationalism.” London School of Economics US Centre American Politics and Policy Blog (blog), January 3, 2017. http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/usappblog/2017/01/03/how-big-data-can-expose-a-nascent-white-house-nationalism/.

This essay applies insights from my dissertation to the issue of president-elect Donald Trump’s campaign against civil rights. Through pattern seeking and a creative application of the criteria of “actual malice” (established by the Supreme Court case New York Times v. Sullivan) I argue that we can begin to see instances of bias against identity groups protected by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Watchdog groups and other researchers will likely find a pattern of malice if they apply this method to Trump’s written and verbal statements made during the 2016 campaign.