The Arabesque from Kant to Comics

The Arabesque from Kant to Comics
Cordula Grewe
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The Arabesque from Kant to Comics tracks the life and afterlife of the arabesque in its surprising transformation from an iconoclastic literary theory of early German Romanticism to aesthetic experimentation in both avant-garde art and popular culture.

Its explosive growth in popularity was followed by an inevitable taming as arabesques became staples in book illustration, poetry publications, and even the decoration of printed scores. The subversive potential of the arabesque was preserved in one of its most surprising offspring, the comic strip: born at the moment when the cholera pandemic first swept through Europe, the comic translated the arabesque’s rank growth into unnerving lawlessness and sequences of contagious visual slapstick. Focusing roughly on the period between 1780 and 1880, this book illuminates the intersecting histories of avant-garde theories of writing, visual culture, and even the disciplinary origins of art history. In the process, it explores media history and intermediality, social networks and cultural transfer, as well as the rise of new and nontraditional art forms.

This book will be of particular interest to scholars of art history, intellectual history, European art, aesthetics, book illustration, material culture, reproduction, comics, and German history.


The Arabesque from Kant to Comics. New York/London: Routledge 2021*
see 13-min lecture on chapter 20: “Contagious Laughter.”