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Interpreting Social Violence in French Culture

Buzançais, 1847-2008

Cynthia A. Bouton

Publication Year: 2011

In January 1847, a grain convoy passed through Buzançais, an obscure village in a remote region of central France that was suffering from hunger, high prices, and widespread unemployment. Villagers intercepted the shipment, invaded granaries and mills, and forced resale of the grain at a just price set by the people. What started as a classic subsistence movement, however, triggered two days of rioting and class hostility punctuated by uncommon property damage and death. Disorder soon spread throughout the region. The Buzançais riot quickly became an evocative symbol of the rights of the people, and stories about the riot have survived into the twenty-first century. In Interpreting Social Violence in French Culture, Cynthia A. Bouton traces how the production and marketing of the Buzançais riot story served political commentators, publishers, authors, illustrators, and local enthusiasts, enabling them to draw upon key points from the 1847 uprising to negotiate issues relevant to their own times. Bouton argues that over time, especially from the 1970s, the persistent integration of stories of social protest into a widening variety of media has helped shape French political identity as one in which the politics of the street has become as customary as the politics of political assemblies. Bouton examines representations of the riot in newspapers, novels, illustrations, popular and scholarly historical narratives, cartoons, television, local spectacles, and on the Internet. She analyzes power relations embedded in texts and in images; the ways in which texts and images complement, complicate, and contradict each other; and the ways in which history, memory, and fiction intersect. Both in 1847 and subsequently, she shows, efforts to reorder the disorder at Buzançais have exposed aspects of French social and cultural attitudes and practices. She demonstrates that the particular media employed to tell the Buzançais story both constrained and empowered the messages conveyed by textual and visual narratives of it, perhaps as much as the ideological positions of authors, illustrators, or producers. By probing the relationship between medium and story in relation to the Buzançais riot, Interpreting Social Violence in French Culture offers a new interpretation of this defining moment in French history.

Published by: Louisiana State University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v

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pp. 8-9

Ireceived crucial financial support from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Council for European Studies. The University of Michigan’s Eisenberg Institute for Historical Studies provided me with a supportive environment and resources as I completed this project. Texas A&M University has supplied institutional...

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pp. 10-19

On a beautiful bluebonnet Texas morning in March 2005, I received a telephone call from the mayor of Buzançais, a modest town of four thousand located deep in central France, three hours by train and bus south of Paris. “I understand from reading interviews you gave to local journalists that you’re writing a history of my town,” he said accusingly, “but...

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CHAPTER ONE: The Riot and Its First Renditions

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pp. 20-39

On Wednesday, 13 January 1847, in a working-class faubourg of Buzançais called Les Hervaux, a group of women encountered a convoy of grain halted at an inn.1 Determined to keep its cargo in Buzançais, they sought reinforcements among men working at the nearby charity workshop. Although the men hesitated, the...

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CHAPTER TWO: Repression and Reaction, Challenge and Response

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pp. 40-70

The Buzançais affair, as we have seen, began as a food riot that also expressed especially intense, broad class hostilities and political demands specific to the mid-nineteenth century. It mingled behaviors associated with classic food riots (appeals to authorities to police the market and prices, shipment interceptions, searches, requisitions, and popular pricefixing), with carnivalesque inversions...

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CHAPTER THREE: Buzançais in Nineteenth-Century Politics and Literature

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pp. 71-99

Throughout the second half of the nineteenth century, the story of Buzançais remained in the memories of some who had lived through it and of others who had perhaps read about it in the press’s widely circulated stories about the riot and the trial that followed. Evidence of these memories appears in polemics and...

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CHAPTER FOUR: Popular Publishing between the Wars

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pp. 100-134

Soon after World War I, two new narratives appeared, in 1919 and 1925, respectively, an era by which living memory of 1847 had died out. Each narrative presents a dramatically different version—textually but also, for the first time, visually—of the Buzançais affair. In 1919, a Paris publisher, Edouard-Joseph, produced the first book version of Vallès, Les Blouses, and engaged Mario Simon to illustrate it.1 In...

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CHAPTER FIVE: Jacquerie as Cartoon and Television Drama

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pp. 135-179

After World War II, the Buzançais affair reappeared not only in familiar genres—such as the political press, historical fiction, and crime stories— but also in other media that renewed its importance to the general public: the cartoon strip, television, historical scholarship, local history, genealogy, and theatrical performance...

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CHAPTER SIX: Buzançais Rendered in History, Patrimony, and Sound and Light

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pp. 180-210

During the 1970s, several elements converged in new appropriations of the Buzançais story by such genres as scholarly history and works associated with la patrimoine (heritage preservation and promotion) movement. These factors included the success of the “new history” (encompassing the Annales school, social history, and regional and local studies) among professional historians; a long...

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pp. 211-217

In December 2006, while surfing the Web, I discovered that the story of Buzançais had made it into the contested realm of globalization, by way of the blogosphere. “Buzançais, le 13 janvier 1847” appeared in an issue of the monthly cyberzine CQFD: Ce qu’il faut dire, détruire, dévélopper.1 CQFD presents itself as an “independent publication . . . committed to social criticism and experimentation....


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pp. 218-259


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pp. 260-265

E-ISBN-13: 9780807138113
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807136867

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2011