The Beelitz Sessions - Ulli Richter and Christoph Knoch

Everywhere was ruin, horrid or lovely, infernal or divine; it decorated the visible landscape, it moulded men's dreams. Troops of lesser artists imitated the masters in this; ruin became more than an artistic fashion; it was a mystique; almost a religion; it gave its devotees the most ecstatic satisfaction.”4

This movement towards a cultural appreciation of ruins had its origins, in turn, even deeper in history, according to Macaulay. Her argument can be summarised thus: “ruin-sentiment…was already distinguishable” in antiquity, but, from the moment Rome succumbed to barbarian invasions, “men became ruin-haunted, ruin-minded”, a psychological state characterised by “that blend of pleasure and romantic gloom that has always been the basic element in ruin-sensibility, and which was never to fade from the European consciousness”. After all, by the seventeenth century, the ruins of antiquity, particularly those of ancient Rome and Greece, were long since famed and eulogised.5

Macaulay, in fact, makes a case for the cross-cultural experience of “ruin pleasure” almost since recorded history began; in so doing, she implies it is innate to the human condition, lying dormant and potential and always ready to germinate given exposure to ruins or periodic ruinfashion. At times she writes of it almost as an affliction. Quoting Henry James admitting to a “note of perversity” in taking pleasure from his ruin gaze, Macaulay acknowledges her own book as “that of a pleasurist” and that it might, in turn, appear “perverse” to some readers. Indeed, James, in his collected travel writing on Italy, confesses to his “delight in…sentient ruin”, indicating the