The Cercle des Hydropathes: A Critical Re-evaluation of Liberal Culture in the Early Third Republic

Alexandra Trott

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis proposes an original interpretation of the Cercle des Hydropathes (1878-1880), a poetic, musical society active in Paris during the early Third Republic. It provides a focused critical study of the Hydropathe club, examining it in relation to its wider social, political, and cultural contexts, and is the first critical monograph of the collective.

Although largely neglected in art historical studies, there remains a firm, albeit fragmented basis of Hydropathe scholarship. In Chapter one I collate and compare the critical material in order to create dialogue that is currently lacking, and to help make the Hydropathe club a field of study in its own right. I also argue the case for distancing the Hydropathe club from Fumisme, offering a new perspective that serves as the basis for the rest of the thesis.

Chapter two takes a largely historicist perspective, and demonstrates the club’s affiliation with liberal Republicanism. It thus examines the club as a cultural institution that functions in accordance with the Republican state, active in reimagining Parisian society according to liberal values.

The final two chapters look in greater detail at the two forms of the club’s cultural discourse: its twice-weekly séances, and its journal, l’Hydropathe. In Chapter three my aim is not to perform a close literary analysis of the club’s texts, but rather to address how these texts, and the club’s ritualistic practice helped construct a united collective. I address the notion of agency at the club, arguing that it encouraged a passive form of consumption.

The final chapter examines l’Hydropathe, focusing closely on the use of caricature, while also considering the publication alongside contemporaneous innovations with the written word, and subsequent experiments with the journal as an autonomous cultural outlet.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Townsend, Christopher, Supervisor
Award date16 Mar 2015
Publication statusUnpublished - 2015


  • Hydropathes
  • avant-garde
  • Emile Goudeau
  • Fumism
  • Modernism
  • L'Hydropathe
  • Chat Noir
  • Arts Incoherents

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