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: This exciting new study investigates links between avant-garde art and the aesthetics of crime in order to bridge the gap between high modernism and mass culture, as emblematized by tabloid reports of unsolved crimes. Throughout Jean-Michel Rabate is concerned with two key questions: what is it that we enjoy when we read murder stories? and what has modern art to say about murder? Indeed, Rabate compels us to consider whether art itself is a form of murder. Â
The book begins with Marcel Duchampâs fascination for trivia and found objects conjoined with his iconoclasm as an anti-artist. The visual parallels between the naked woman at the centre of his final work, ÂEtant DonnÃ©sâ, and a young woman who had been murdered in Los Angeles in January 1947, provides the specific point of departure. Steven Hodelâs recent book has thrown new light on what was called the 'Black Dahlia' murder by pointing to one of Duchampâs friends, Man Ray, who, according to Hodel, was the murdererâs inspirator. This putative involvement recalls Walter Benjaminâs description of Eugene Atgetâs famous photographs of deserted Paris streets as presenting Âthe scene of the crimeâ. Indeed, this phrase was used as the title for Ralph Roffâs 1997 exhibition, which implied that modern art is indissociable from forensic gaze and a detectiveâs outlook, a view first advanced by Edgar Allan Poe who invoked both criminal detection and manuscript studies in his 1846 essay ÂPhilosophy of Compositionâ. Arguing that Poeâs fanciful account of the genesis of his story ÂThe Ravenâ can be superimposed onto his deft solving of murders like that of the ÂRue Morgueâ or of Marie Roget, the author goes on to suggest that Poeâs aesthetic parallels Thomas De Quinceyâs contemporaneous essay ÂOf Murder Considered as one of the Fine Artsâ.