Taylor sees Jarry's tyrannical character Ubu as a landmark figure in modernist art and a precursor of the totalitarianism and dehumanizing mechanization of the 20th century. When Mussolini, Hitler, and Stalin rose to power, Taylor claims that artists used the Ubu character as a symbol of the brutish wrongs of the age. Taylor's ability to link both art history and social history makes for a fascinating exploration of the implications of art on society and vice versa.
Taylor's lecture was delivered live at the PMA on March 9, 2007. The podcast is available free from the PMA site. (A lecture on Diego Rivera and the Mexican Mural and Print Revolution is also available.) With the ubiquity of iPods today, I just wish that more and more museums would make content like this available free online. Hearing this lecture has made me want to read Jarry's work (I confess that I've read none) and examine these artists he's influenced more closely. Museums should realize that a little taste like this can bring hungry patrons to their door very easily.