This essay builds on Priscilla Parkhurst Ferguson’s pioneering inquiry on reading and writing Paris as the site of a democratizing and modernizing process and, more specifically, on her approach to Jules Vallès’s “performance of politics” in Le Tableau de Paris and L’Insurgé. I examine the ways in which Vallès’s reading of the Paris of the early 1880s and excavation of the multilayered city’s past and cultural representations help foster the return of repressed voices and collective memories. Using the trope of the city as palimpsest, I argue that the critical power of nostalgia for revolutionary Paris aims to generate a new street aesthetics and an egalitarian public sphere.

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