The History of Art in Victor Hugo's Notre-Dame de Paris

The art historical digressions in the work are examined in terms of their functionality. "Time" is defined as an extra-human, natural phenomenon. The mass scenes, similarly, are an oceanic flux that cancels out human intentionality. This dehumanization leads to a veritable objectivization and, ultimately, monumentalization of time, which merges into architectural objects. The Cathedral, a transitional monument, is a petrified image of time. Its two styles, representing staticity and dynamism, make it a synthesis of Being and Becoming. The motionless Edifice of the Middle Ages integrates the more moveable essence of literature, thus assimilating Becoming into Being. Hugo wants to create a parallel though converse synthesis in which the dynamic Book assimilates the static Building. Since the old epic is the analogue of architecture, this aspiration has an intra-literary aspect: Gide's Cathedral is a coagulation of epic monumentality, his projected synthesis is one of the ancient epic and the modern novel. However, he does not succeed in bringing the Cathedral into motion. Architecture remains an extraneous element within the work of literature, and epic grandeur refuses to merge with the novelistic plot. In our divisive era, Being and Becoming are bound to remain apart. (WWH)

Holdheim, W. Wolfgang
Volume 1976-1977 Fall-Winter; 5(1-2): 58-70.