Recasting Iron: Alternative Imaginations of an Ephemeral Eiffel Tower, 1889-1909

Lieber, Julia, French - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Horne, Janet, AS-French Lit-Gen Linguistics, University of Virginia

There is perhaps no shorthand more banal for France and Frenchness than the omnipresent form of the Eiffel Tower. Because its iterations are so ubiquitous, the public imagination has come to regard the iron monument as an inevitability, eliding the uncertainty of its early period. Indeed, Gustave Eiffel’s firm’s lease on the Champs de Mars was to expire in 1909, at which point the Tower was to be moved or demolished entirely.

During this “trial run” period, the Eiffel Tower was just as ephemeral as the key- chains and postcards that litter its public perception. Yet, unlike these modern-day copies of the Tower, its two decades of transitory status allowed alternative imaginations for the Tower to flourish in a cultural dialogue. These changes in the Tower’s official, physical form also illuminate the “unofficial” popular forces that rendered the temporary structure a permanent icon. This dissertation will integrate the lowbrow, the petty, the behind-the- scenes, the feminine, and the infantile into the canon of Eiffel Tower history by adding novel artifacts and texts to its record and giving voice and expression to the “little people” who set its iconicity in motion.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Eiffel Tower, France, Architectural History, French History, Material Culture, Women’s History
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