Photograph accompanying Albert Jeanneret’s essay “La Rhythmique,” one of several terms put forward in L’Esprit nouveau as the basis for health in both art and life. Source: L’Esprit nouveau, 1920. no. 2, p. 185.

Project (2018)

Doctors of "L’Esprit nouveau": Human Energetics and the Formation of the French Avant-garde

My PhD research considers the intersection of art and architectural practice within the milieu of the French periodical L’Esprit nouveau (1920–1925). By focusing on the scientific writings drawn together within its program, I consider the concepts, practices, and institutions that were implicated in the journal’s efforts to redefine French art and architecture as a corollary to the medical sciences. 

I begin by tracing the discourse of human energetics as it is transferred from the fields of medical physiology, psychology, and social hygiene onto the discipline of art and architectural production. I argue that, while this transfer occurs largely via nineteenth-century German empathy theory, L’Esprit nouveau represents a significant effort to re-invent this tradition to meet the ambitions of social collectivism in France. My hypothesis is that underlying the journal’s nationalist and industrialist overtones is the attempt to formulate a newly psychologized conception of masculine production. 

My thesis will thus contribute to the historical literature of this French interwar period, specifically as it relates to Franco-German exchanges at the intersection of art and science. Its broader ambition, however, will be to provide a cultural case study for how gendered nationalisms are embedded within the disciplinary codes of Modern art and architectural production.