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Holding Court: Katie Hornstein

Professor Katie HornsteinHolding Court is an interview series that features the authors of the new books on display in the King Arthur Flour café in Baker-Berry Library.

In this week's edition, we talk with Katie Hornstein, a specialist of nineteenth-century French art and visual culture.  Her book, Picturing War in France, 1792–1856 (Yale University Press, 2018), examines representations of contemporary conflict in the first half of the 19th century and how these pictures provided citizens with an imaginative stake in wars being waged in their name.  Katie also recently co-edited Horace Vernet and the Thresholds of Nineteenth-Century Visual Culture (University Press of New England, 2017) about the artist Horace Vernet, who, although popular during his lifetime, was reviled by the poet Charles Baudelaire and thus consigned to relative obscurity.  In this interview, Katie speaks about her single-authored monograph, Picturing War.

What is your book about?

My book deals with the emergence of a public in France after the French Revolution that was eager to consume pictures of war: these pictures were (relatively) easy to understand and often fun to look at, though they were also violent. I want to know what this tells us about the political and artistic culture of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. 

Where do you get your ideas?

From my cat. And from primary sources, especially works of art.

What does research look like for you? What element of research could you not live without?

For research, I could not live without Gallica (the digital portal of the Bibliothèque nationale de France), museums, curators, and my colleagues.

What do you think the library of the future will look like?

I hope that it will still contain a lot of books. The digital world is wonderful, but I think it's important to know how to browse the shelves and be surprised by what you find.

What advice would you give to an aspiring scholar or writer?

Put down your phone and make space for non-distracted thinking.

And finally, what do you read for fun?

I just read Goodbye Vitamin by Rachel Khong and some salacious French revolutionary historical fiction by Hilary Mantel (A Place of Greater Safety); at the moment, I'm contending with a pile of old New Yorker magazines that have gone neglected in recent months.

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