Sep 15 2011
Brian Dillon: Ruins
"There's a fascination frantic / In a ruin that's romantic" – Gilbert and Sullivan, in The Mikado.
Ruins have for several centuries been objects of literary and artistic veneration, reminders of real and imaginary catastrophe, images of historical hubris and souvenirs from dashed futures. Central to the history of Western aesthetics, ruins are also symbols of the perils of Romantic melancholy, of picturesque sentiment and pure kitsch. From Denis Diderot's meditations on the paintings of Hubert Robert, through Romantic poetry and "The Fall of the House of Usher" to J. G. Ballard's post-industrial sublime, writing on ruins has been an ambiguous undertaking; the enthusiast of decay has one eye on the past, the other on thrilling visions of a collapse still to come. Ruins are the poetic embodiment of futurism and
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