Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Open Access)


Colby College. Sociology Dept.


Neil Gross

Second Advisor

Marcos Perez


In this thesis, I utilize the theoretical framework of sociologist Pierre Bourdieu to analyze the representation of class ideology in the paintings of French Impressionists Edouard Manet and Edgar Degas. Using Bourdieu’s theories of habitus and class distinction, I investigate various historical and biographical factors to illustrate how Manet and Degas were simultaneously endowed with significant cultural and economic capital of the old elite, yet predisposed to create reactionary art. I also identify several examples of bourgeoisie iconography within specific paintings created by these two artists. I argue that Manet and Degas, acting as agents within the fields of cultural production and power, produced that both portrayed and legitimized the cultural authority of the bourgeoisie class, in defiance of traditional artistic practices favored by the aristocracy and the French Académie.


Bourdieu, sociology of art, Manet, Degas, Habitus, class ideology, nineteenth century France, Impressionists, sociology of culture, cultural capital