Overlooking Damage
Art, Display, and Loss in Times of Crisis
Jonah Siegel



Occasions and Feelings

Broken, we say, as though we could imagine a whole. Stolen, we say, as though identifying rightful owners might be a straightforward matter, as though we had ready access to a system for the proper adjudication of contending claims. I see, we say, meaning, I understand. Your point of view, we say, meaning, I see things differently from you because of what we call my position or my angle of sight, as though geography or the simple fact of location determined how we see things and so our disagreements. And, of course, we know they do—though our certainty about the simplicity of that fact might suggest we probably should spend more time thinking about how and why that is the case.

This is a book about how we see damage and loss at moments when seeing and losing are particularly marked events—when the object at risk or injured is so highly valued or the loss is so irrecoverable that the mind is driven to judgments about how it feels about sight and loss. It is about the relationship between thought and feeling that emerges when overlooking damage—and what is entailed in what we are moved to say about this relationship. The polemical aim of this set of interlocking essays is to challenge what I take to be fairly conventional ideas about the relationship between seeing, knowing, and judging by focusing on a small number of highly charged instances that tantalize with the apparent clarity of the judgments for which they call, a lucidity that I demonstrate is bought at the cost of overlooking a great deal.

But that last sentence sounds more judgmental than I mean it to. I should say at the outset that what is interesting about the disappointments I discuss in this book is that they have structural sources. Thinking about damage is bound to be challenging, as the experience of injury is always incommensurate with the emotions it provokes and with the ideas it inspires in response. The immediacy of injury does not lend itself easily to the processes of generalization necessary for conceptualization to take place, even though damage is probably the most urgent motivation for reflection on causes. Why do I suffer? Why does my loved one? That the questions are inevitable does not make the answers come. But then, such questions are hardly requests for information. We might call this the Job effect: the appeal for the meaning of suffering, which is really more of a complaint about that suffering. This nonquestion is answered in the Bible by an ungenerous reminder of how little we in fact know, of the smallness of the perception that finds great interest in one injured party in a world full of harm. Where were you when I laid the pillars of the world, says a voice out of the whirlwind to the suffering man, an answer that has disappointed for millennia.1 But the painful disproportion manifested in the relationship between human and divine is only a vast expansion of the gap that limits all human sympathy. I may see injury; you feel pain. But it is also quite possible that I may not recognize damage where you do. When I do feel pain, I will not, in any case, reflect on that experience in the same way as someone who merely sees the moment of injury, or hears from me that I am suffering. I am feeling; you are reflecting. Would we say those words describe a difference of point of view?2

This is to speak of subjects in a vague present tense. But injury inhabits time. Its importance to individuals and cultures includes retrospection and projection. I fear injury; I have been injured, or I am injured: the unresolvable ambiguity built into the verb in the last formulation is telling. When does damage end? Though the terms are often used interchangeably, injury suggests a harmful event (the bowl is dropped, the fire set, I fall), damage an ongoing condition (the vessel is cracked, the temple fallen, the hip broken). What is the relationship of the memory of injury to the ongoing experience of damage? My engagement with event and condition will have the attenuated and sporadic character of all my other experiences, especially, as suggested already, when it comes to what others suffer. My responsiveness is fated to a greater degree of failure in that case than even that which typically characterizes other events in my moral and emotional life.

A broken thing has been further damaged. The thing that never belonged to me still does not belong to me. Where do I find myself in relation to facts and events that do not clearly include me? Speaking for my own relationship to monuments, I have to admit that I want nothing rebuilt that is broken. Any rendering of Rome I have seen that brings it back to the days of its glory fills me with a dread that is at once aesthetic and ethical. I don’t want Rome repaired; I need no new temple. The religious and political murders that took place from Tenochtitlán to the Roman Forum, the privileged priestly castes or aristocracies that accompanied so many ancient structures: I have no nostalgia for those. Structures that would have excluded me as an outsider or an enemy become welcoming when subjected to injury and the mollifying effects of time. Broken, they let us in. Thinking along this vein, disturbing notions might arise: for example, what if what shocks us when we look at the destruction of the Buddhas at Bamiyan or the Temple of the Sun in Palmyra is not the face of barbarism but a kind of destruction modernity embraces in some contexts, deprecates in others?

Every ruin is a record of loss and neglect, and almost always of a kind of violence. Oblivion and recovery are the two fundamental ingredients of the ruin, with the memory of violence either directly present or easily surmisable from the losses we see before us. Even when the damage is the result of natural processes or accident, we know the absence of caretaking is always indicative of a greater loss, as human hands no longer repair roofs or reinforce foundations. The fascination of the ruin is impossible to separate from the evidence of irrecoverable loss it carries on its surface—though the names we give the experience of that loss may identify a kind of compensatory or more than compensatory experience we might have called picturesque at one point, or poetic, or sublime.

Buildings painstakingly assembled from carefully dressed stone, carved statues of gods and people: they were not made to be broken. Hence the pressure they place not just on aesthetic concepts that quickly naturalize their injuries, but also on the moral life, into which they tend to enter or which they leave with disconcerting ease. There was a time a book might have been titled Pleasure of Ruins, suggesting what is indeed the case—that interest in the aesthetic experiences they afford shaped the modern fascination with broken old things.3 Centuries of visual representations and poems since the Renaissance evidence the pleasure antique fragments have provoked, the creativity they have stimulated. Now we are likely to see titles that suggest the moral concerns embedded in encountering broken things, such as Ravaged, Designs of Destruction, Catastrophizing. An excellent recent catalog was titled, like the show itself, Ruin Lust, with the suggestion of a passion that overflows the measure. Susan Stewart’s The Ruins Lesson advertises its concern with something like instruction, an emphasis further underlined in the subtitle of that magisterial work, Meaning and Material in Western Culture. Even my own, vaguely judgmental Overlooking Damage hardly leads with pleasure or beauty.4

It bears saying that “ruin,” like some of the other words with which it has been associated, such as “antiquity,” “pagan,” or “barbarian,” “gothic” or “classical,” says less about the object being identified than about the system of values sustained by the existence of the term. Still, “ruin” has that extra charge that a material instance provides—even in imagination or reproduction. Like all matter, it pushes the mind beyond concepts through its sheer contingency as experience. Who managed to carry this massive stone all the way here, to pile it up this way and carve it? How could anyone destroy anything that looked like this? Who found it? In what sense was it lost? Would I care about this thing the way I do if it were whole? Are those flowers growing between the ancient stones? Looking at this massive structure I have come a long way to visit should be enough to engross the imagination, so why is my eye drawn toward that dark corner closed off to visitors where a further level of experience seems to wait? Why does an obscure shadow in the engraving tantalize me with an absence that feels heavier than the stone shifted by the passage of time or by an angry enemy? What would the foundations of my home look like after two thousand years, and will anyone care as much as I seem to about this place I am visiting in person or in my imagination?

And this final question, which may or may not be given voice but is always present when we encounter a ruin with any degree of attention, reminds us that while we may tell ourselves that on the other side of ruins glimmer visions of lost wholeness and permanence, just past that mirage lie all the broken things about which we do not care. As Dario Gamboni points out in his important study of damage and art, the fate of every thing is oblivion: “It is their normal fate,” he points out with disarming simplicity, “to disappear.”5 Vulnerability is written into the nature of things we love, as into everything else. The real tragedy of things is how banal injury and loss are as facts. All the most robust systems of value people have lived by until recently factor in that quality (“We are dust and to dust we return” is just one familiar ritual/textual reminder from one tradition). It is an indication of a particularly modern moral crisis to think that the experience of injury and loss is anything other than the experience of the world over time. Given how much we lose and discard, it is evidently the supplement of our feelings that adds to particular artifacts the aura of vulnerability. Still, there is no gainsaying that the pressure of the ruin is also ascribable to its durability. A ruin is something that has outlasted its moment and is very likely to outlast us. The feeling of loss we experience at the encounter is at once a recognition and a mystification. We see ourselves in the ruin when we experience it as loss. But we also see a permanence that is far more than human alongside an entirely and solely human phenomenon, which is projection itself, which is the cultural experience of recovery that makes us pause over this pile of rocks at this waste space, these columns and arches or foundations, and feel they mean something to us. Whether we are feeling pleasure in reflecting on broken things or are troubled by encountering them, in either case what we are experiencing are emotions in which the self is at issue. How do I place myself in relation to damage and loss?

Questions apparently more erudite than the ones I have touched on so far will remind us of the cultural sources of our relationship to broken old things. Did Jesus walk here, or Caesar? What might the whole temple have looked like to either one of them, or to Solomon? How would it feel to worship here? Will the building or monument I myself design ever be able to achieve such grandeur? Then again, is all human achievement not ironized by the passage of time that has brought down even these strong walls, left us only a foundation? The First Temple in Jerusalem stood about 410 years before it was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. As a point of comparison, one might note that it was in the world of things a little less than the time the Sistine Chapel has existed, roughly the amount of time that Michelangelo’s frescoes have been on its walls. The Second Temple lasted for around 420 years before it was burned down by Roman troops. Every year that passes marks for the world how much more enduring than their physical existence the textual life of these lost structures has been. At this point that number tells us that more than double the length of time that both temples put together lasted has elapsed since the last one ceased to be. And the near coincidence of the Christian Era with the fall of the sanctuary of the Jews is a further indication of how much more widely diffused the power of these buildings has been since their loss. Evidently, some things are more lasting than temples built with hands.

Overdetermination is a concept from psychoanalysis that loses most of its interest when it is used merely to describe something that is inevitable owing to a proliferation of causes. In Freud, the word describes the ways in which apparently immediate preoccupations feel as pressing as they do because of the ways in which they follow or cross tracks laid down in our minds years before.6 The term is designed to capture a fundamental psychoanalytic concern—both therapeutic and conceptual: the relationship between a past that is never fully lost, although never entirely present to our conscious minds, and a present that feels immediately difficult because of specific current concerns, but in relation to which neither feelings nor concerns can be understood without reaching back to a personal history that the mind keeps telling us about and hiding. In dreams, or perhaps in the neuroses we find impossible to escape, the mind confesses a relationship that it does not fully allow itself to remember but will never entirely forget. The ruin is an extraordinarily vivid manifestation of over determination, though it requires some reflection to see it this way. While it participates in the modern tendency to valorize immediate experience, every thing about the ruin indicates that its meaning is only available to a mind stocked with the memory of ideas and values that make a relic of neglect and injury feel self-evidently meaningful.

The categories I am interested in in this book, beauty and damage, are experienced with a contingent quality that general concepts will tend to camouflage rather than reveal. As I reflect on recent episodes of damage to prized objects, or to objects that have become prized as we see them threatened, or to objects that are prized by some and deprecated by others, inevitably there are moments I find myself wondering if my aspiration to use the resources of scholarship and theory to understand these things is meant to be a contribution to current debates on these topics or an attempt to avoid the fear that the kinds of human behaviors entailed in the creation of damage are precisely those least liable to respond to ideas at all, especially ideas of any sort of complexity or sophistication. The final thought in this melancholy chain of reflection, compounded, on the one hand, of the scholar’s hypertrophied sense of the difficulty of adequately reflecting current scholarship and, on the other, of the fear that my attempts at intellectual responsibility will not compensate for the nugatory effect of my intervention in the very areas of life I am writing about, takes me in another direction altogether. It strikes me at that point that it is silly to imagine a world in which ideas, even quite sophisticated ideas, are not shaping the violence that shakes the world. As museums are assembled and taken apart, as works of art are elaborately destroyed, it is a kind of self-protective instinct that tells the student of ideas that the realm of thought is distinct from that of action.

What I own, what I care about, the actions I take or fail to take to protect or damage things and people: for all that these are deeply personal phenomena, they are also clearly the result of concepts that are not fully my own, that are always more than individual and practical. Whether they are front of mind at the moment of violence or not, every terrorist is acting on a concept of terror, every soldier on the basis of an idea of nation. And, of course, something similar can be said about every individual response to injury—otherwise, why would a small number of casualties from a rare event engross the imagination when extraordinary numbers of preventable deaths are accepted every day (in my nation from handguns and rifles, everywhere from the global climate crisis)? Every museum is evidently not simply a structure of concrete and glass with stuff in it that is then retrospectively conceptualized, but the result of a number of intersecting and often contradictory ideas, arguments, and desires. Here is one relatively small, if highly relevant, instance that clearly exists in a space between the practical and the conceptual: in the period during which I have been writing this book, the consensus about what ought to be in museums and where those museums should be have both seen extraordinary changes, as have concepts of preservation and feelings about the destruction of monuments. None of these issues is ever truly discussed in a dispassionate way—nor should they be, as there is nothing about them that does not involve the passions. But it would be absurd to understand these ongoing and not yet stabilized changes in the relationships of individuals to objects and display as free of concepts—of nation, of complicity, of historical or personal responsibility. Emotions, even emotions that seem to militate against ideas or reflection, are always hiding in plain sight when such topics are addressed. Along with the apparently self-evident nature of what we see, the primacy of what we feel in response to witness is among the most mystified components in cultural conversations about violence and injury.

Sometimes the occasion of writing is more marked than others, the moment of creation calling out with particular force to the reader and shaping the later reception of a text. The experience of extraordinary crises drives the writings addressed in this book, most clearly the hopes and fears of the French Revolution, the experience of dislocation and dread that became so important in intellectual responses to the Second World War, and the recent violence to antiquities carried out by religious fanatics. Behind these highly localized topics, the reader will inevitably hear in my discussion the pressure of a set of intertwined crises that may feel different, more distinctly pressing and impossible to locate in the past, notably climate change and the international refugee crisis reshaping world politics, the two chief locations for the overlooking of damage in modern culture.

I have written several books devoted to demonstrating the ways in which nineteenth-century authors address issues still current in our day—indeed, how they anticipate and might help us to reflect on concerns the urgency of which is not unrelated to the illusion of their recent emergence. Like every student of writings on art and art institutions, I have always had to keep in mind another set of historical horizons, specifically the pasts that were the source of so much that the nineteenth century thought about when it reflected on art, classical antiquity, the Middle Ages, and the Renaissance, as well as all the things it came to call modern. Lately the topic of periodization has felt less academic, has become newly pressing, as culture confronts the unavoidable sense of looming change created first by the end of the long period of relative political stability in Europe and the United States associated with the Cold War and, more recently and in an accelerating way, by the ongoing and overlapping crises that press upon us in new variations every day, so different yet so clearly related. Winds bring unquenchable fires, smoke that covers the sun, or unwonted rains that flood areas unused to such extremities. Refugees gather at the borders of wealthy nations or die in perilous crossings. Political institutions the world over are distorted beyond recognition by the power of unmatchable wealth. Most recently the response to an epochal medical crisis becomes a reminder of how much more powerful fantasies are than the reserved nostrums of science. And yet, while it is difficult to avoid the feeling that we are living in a period of profound and anxious transition, it is striking that so many changes to circumstances have been met with relatively small revisions in the concepts shaping critical responses, continuing a trend that has been marked for decades.

Dominant ideas about the nature of progress, power, and knowledge, together with the way these things might be said to intersect in culture, still go back to a set of sophisticated claims that are part of a cultural dispensation shaped by the unparalleled conflagration that was the Second World War and the fears and hopes that followed the end of that struggle, a long moment that history will likely judge to have been as extraordinarily anomalous in the intellectual consensus that characterized it as it was limited in the centers of power around which it developed. In the past few decades, the human experience of the workings of all of those categories—whether power, progress, or knowledge—has entirely changed, along with the dominant elites, interests, alliances, and cultural conventions with which they may be associated. It would be as odd for analyses of society and cultural institutions shaped by conditions between the 1930s and 1970s to be clearly applicable today as it would be for assumptions about communication, manufacturing, and even military power to be based on conditions and equipment from that span. The types of politics imaginable, the demographic makeup of nations, the very winds that bring us rain or stoke implacable fires: the last couple of decades have seen profound changes in all of these. And yet our methods of analysis have adapted poorly. The widespread sense of urgency seems unable to result in a new cultural politics that meets the moment rather than a nostalgic one that keeps reaching for old answers and mourning both their failure and the ongoing success of evil.

This book proposes to take seriously the resources culture provides for reflection on damage, whether visual, literary, or a combination of both. Imperfect things, things that find a place in later culture by suggesting through their partial nature their connections to cultures long lost: my working assumption in this book is that texts participate in the qualities we associate with ruins. Loss, oblivion, and potential recovery are the fate of the written word as often as of more apparently substantial things. While some writings become naturalized into later periods and some are found impossible to assimilate, either eventuality says more about the aspirations of the new era than about the text itself. While the injuries associated with the 1940s are crucial in the formation of concepts of responsibility, judgment, and history that still dominate both in the popular arena and in more academic or theoretical realms, the inheritances of earlier moments of violence are sometimes lost sight of in a general sense that past ideas emerged out of a deluded sense of confident clarity aiming to impose its will on an unsettled future.

A number of deeply thoughtful and erudite scholars have illuminated in recent years the complexity of issues involving cultural property, heritage, collecting, display, and even restitution, and I cite much of that work in the pages of this book. I am interested, however, in ways in which current crises might be recognized as indications of ongoing contradictions in culture. The clash of convictions about the nature and meaning of collecting and display is most easily understood as a phenomenon bound to arise when ignorance is confronted and corrected—the ignorance of certain unilluminated agents, of an entire era, of a people. This book is written otherwise. It does not find the contemporary world particularly clear on what it loves and needs to protect, or about the kinds of actions liable to yield protection or manifest love. Given this sense of our own limits, it is difficult for me to think that earlier periods are distinguished from our own mainly by their blindness to what is right or beautiful or valuable.

My hope is that the historical span I engage with by starting with theorists of vandalism and ruin going back to that great new beginning that was the French Revolution, together with the method I employ of listening to the documents of the past for the emotions shaping ideas, will help in the effort to make sense of the ways broken remains articulate with ongoing revisions of what it means to break, to own, to preserve, and to admire. Elements of the rich complex of topics and materials to which I have so far just gestured have typically been encountered in specialized fields—art history, archeology, anthropology, literary studies, philosophy, the law, and of course, more recently, museum and heritage studies—disciplines that will differ markedly in their concerns and methods and so in their conclusions. Studies that have emerged in the social sciences, for example, sometimes focus on the networks of human agents, or even on what has been called the biography of the object itself, as a way to rewrite histories that in the past were often told as stories of the heroic endeavors of highly valorized individuals or that in some way naturalized the fate of particularly admired objects. Such recovery work may overlap methodologically with engaged scholarship aspiring to lay out the complicity with imperial violence of collections or the act of collecting, but it tends to have a distinct character and aim. (Do objects have lives, and so “biographies,” once they are removed from the place they were made, or have they died at that point—or worse?) Curators always live with the practical effects of concepts, spoken and unspoken. Today, they are challenged by insights about provenance, about the neglected or hidden histories of collections, as well as by the stringent concepts of complicity and innocence shaping current cultural politics. They find themselves in a difficult situation: on the one hand, a largely indifferent public with less access than ever to any concepts that might give meaning to the museum and its contents; on the other, a motivated and suspicious intellectual elite for whom the current configuration of the institutions of culture is an ongoing injury because it is related to unresolved and unacknowledged forms of damage.7

Within my own field of literary studies and among students of culture more generally, the topic of damage has emerged lately as an important element in discussions of the intersection of human beings with the material world.8 It strikes me that reflection on the theme might also have something to say to the never fully resolved debate about ways of reading that crops up from time to time in the discipline. After all, the two terms around which the topic was first formulated in a seminal essay by Eve Sedgwick—“paranoid” and “reparative” reading—suggest that how we approach a text is shaped by the assumption of an injury to be feared or repaired.9 “Critique,” the apparently bloodless term that Sedgwick put under the signs of injury and fear, has characteristically been wielded to identify a situation in which the dangerous workings of power that underpin some apparently nonpolitical cultural object are revealed through careful analysis. In that sense, injury is what the paranoid reading uncovers, though Sedgwick’s terms inevitably put a question mark over the discovery. In the instances addressed in Overlooking Damage, the marks of injury are not in fact waiting to be discovered; they are everywhere present on the surface of the object. The sense of imminent threat felt when the bullets start to fly, bombs explode, or a work of art is stolen or destroyed is clearly not adequately described as paranoia. It is also unlikely that repair will be possible when the guns fall silent.

Although this book ranges widely, it returns repeatedly to a small set of texts and the occasions of their writing. The former I want to be understood as making representative foundational claims, the latter as the conditions that ought to shape the reception of works that have often been wrenched out of history to their detriment. Walter Benjamin wrote his much-cited final essay on the concept of history in 1940, the fateful year in which German troops occupied Paris and he himself committed suicide at the Spanish border, a hopeless refugee despairing at a frontier. At every turn, Benjamin’s claims about long spans of time are shaped by quite local and immediate, indeed urgent, concerns. The concepts of history Benjamin addresses, the angel of history he summons but can never expect to arrive, and the messiah he evokes if only to remind us of the absence of the real presence—these are eternal creatures and births of a moment to which I will make repeated reference in Overlooking Damage.

Along with Benjamin’s essay from 1940, two intellectual projects dating back to the revolutionary 1790s are recurrent points of reference for my argument. Henri Jean-Baptiste Grégoire, known as the Abbé Grégoire, and Constantin François de Chasseboeuf, the revolutionary nobleman who assumed the name Volney in honor of Voltaire, were both members of the National Assembly attempting to define the future for a revolutionary France that not only saw itself as the model for a better future but lived through the experience of attempting to make that future come about. Volney’s 1791 Ruins, or Meditations on the Revolution of Empires begins with an elaborately staged emotional response to the ruins of the city of Palmyra. The Abbé Grégoire, often credited with establishing the modern meaning of the word “vandalism,” wrote a set of studies beginning in 1793—and so, near the height of the Terror—addressing the need to preserve works of art that the Revolution might have seen as self-evidently pernicious. These texts, from a period that is often faulted for the failure to achieve the values it expressed rather than acknowledged for having established the centrality of those values in the first place, vividly demonstrate the complex relations to be discovered among the topics of preservation, judgment, and damage at precisely a point in history when it might have seemed obvious that all the judgments were clear, that preservation was not necessary, and that damage was an entirely desirable goal.

Who is responsible for injury? What does damage mean? What does it mean to look at it and find it meaningful? And how are the processes of looking best understood in relation to harm? Listening to Benjamin, Volney, and Grégoire, we hear voices speaking at epochal turns in history—global conflagration, revolution. Whether the work of John Ruskin, the great Victorian art critic, inhabits an entirely different register depends on how we understand the nature of modern damage. He is typically excluded from the list of significant theorists, not only because his modes of writing have become difficult to assimilate to later intellectual taste, but also because his nation and period are associated in the popular imagination with complacent prosperity and moralizing, on the one hand, and with the violent consolidation of empire, on the other. Texts from his day are often blamed for their indifference to injuries they are typically held either to ignore or to actively support. Ruskin, however, had no doubt that the moral failures of his era were an urgent question and closely linked to the inadequacy of modern perception.

The tendency to think of a complacent and prosperous Victorian Britain as largely insulated from violence is one of those historical fallacies that is apparently too useful to ever be fully put aside. Certainly, the nation avoided the armed insurrections and revolutions of the continent, but a recent reference book calculates that between Waterloo and the outbreak of the First World War, there were a total of six years in which the nation was not involved in military operations, none of which fell during the years of Victoria’s reign.10 It is, in any case, inadequate to constrain reflection on the damage characteristic of this period to what we might associate with swords, guns, and bombs. The advance of an inexorable capitalist project in the nineteenth century is only free from violence and injury when we strictly limit our sense of what those terms entail in ways Ruskin never did. As I will indicate in the chapters to follow, to include John Ruskin in the list of significant theorists on damage and culture is not to suggest his impulses were always correct, but it is certainly to open the door to reflection on kinds of injuries and failures of care that are possibly more urgent today than even those associated with the actions of massed armies.


1. Job 38–42. KJV, The Holy Bible (New York: Meridian, 1974). The figure of Job is identified as a foundational element in the rise of theodicy in Susan Neiman’s important study, Evil in Modern Thought: An Alternative History of Philosophy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002). See, e.g., 18, 100.

2. Elaine Scarry’s discussion of what she calls “the inexpressibility of physical pain” is still the most developed discussion of the topic. See The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985), 3–19.

3. Rose Macaulay, Pleasure of Ruins (London: Thames & Hudson, 1953).

4. Jo Tollebeek and Eline van Assche, Ravaged: Art and Culture in Times of Conflict (Brussels: Mercatorfonds, 2014); Lucia Allais, Designs of Destruction: The Making of Monuments in the Twentieth Century (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017); Gerard Passannante, Catastrophizing: Materialism and the Making of Disaster (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2019); Brian Dillon, Ruin Lust: Artists’ Fascination with Ruins from Turner to the Present Day (London: Tate, 2014); Susan Stewart, The Ruins Lesson: Meaning and Material in Western Culture (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2020).

5. Dario Gamboni, The Destruction of Art: Iconoclasm and Vandalism since the French Revolution (London: Reaktion Books, 2018).

6. Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams [1900], vols. 4 and 5 of The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, trans. and ed. James Strachey in collaboration with Anna Freud (London: Hogarth Press, 1953–66).

7. See the Introduction for further discussion of these topics.

8. The subtitle of Susan Stewart’s The Ruins Lesson: Meaning and Material in Western Culture only suggests the intricate relationships the book addresses, but all the substantives are closely connected: ruins, meaning, the material. At the heart of Passannante’s Catastrophizing is the claim that the imagination of injury is a characteristic manifestation of the emergence of a powerful materialism in intellectual culture. See also the place of broken remains from the past in my own discussion of material topics in Material Inspirations: The Interests of the Art Object in the Nineteenth Century and After (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020), 145–245. The movement in Bruno Latour’s work between emphasizing a profoundly material (though not materialist) revision of what we call the social and reflecting on historic and current accounts of damage (“the anthropology of iconoclasm”) is particularly striking. See “What Is Iconoclash? Or Is There a World beyond the Image Wars?,” in Iconoclash: Beyond the Image Wars in Science, Religion, and Art, ed. Latour and Peter Weibel (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2002), 16–40. See also Latour, Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 110n141.

9. Eve Kosofk sy Sedgwick, “Paranoid Reading and Reparative Reading, or, You’re So Paranoid, You Probably Think This Essay Is About You,” in Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003), 123–51. Cf. the specter of injury in this formulation of Latour’s: “The urge for debunking has become the best way to protect the analyst from even hearing the scream of those they misinterpret” (Reassembling, 100n131).

10. Harold E. Raugh, Jr., The Victorians at War, 1815–1914: An Encyclopedia of British Military History (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2004), xiii.