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The Colonial Legacy in France

Fracture, Rupture, and Apartheid

Translated by Alexis Pernsteiner. Edited by Nicolas Bancel, Pascal Blanchard, and Dominic Thomas

Debates about the legacy of colonialism in France are not new, but they have taken on new urgency in the wake of recent terrorist attacks. Responding to acts of religious and racial violence in 2005, 2010, and 2015 and beyond, the essays in this volume pit French ideals against government-sponsored revisionist decrees that have exacerbated tensions, complicated the process of establishing and recording national memory, and triggered divisive debates on what it means to identify as French. As they document the checkered legacy of French colonialism, the contributors raise questions about France and the contemporary role of Islam, the banlieues, immigration, race, history, pedagogy, and the future of the Republic. This innovative volume reconsiders the cultural, economic, political, and social realities facing global French citizens today and includes contributions by Achille Mbembe, Benjamin Stora, Françoise Vergès, Alec Hargreaves,Elsa Dorlin,and Alain Mabanckou, among others.

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Colonial Memory and Postcolonial Europe

Maltese Settlers in Algeria and France

Andrea L. Smith

"[I]ntersects with very active areas of research in history and anthropology, and links these domains of inquiry spanning Europe and North Africa in a creative and innovative fashion." -- Douglas Holmes, Binghamton University

Maltese settlers in colonial Algeria had never lived in France, but as French citizens were abruptly "repatriated" there after Algerian independence in 1962. In France today, these pieds-noirs are often associated with "Mediterranean" qualities, the persisting tensions surrounding the French-Algerian War, and far-right, anti-immigrant politics. Through their social clubs, they have forged an identity in which Malta, not Algeria, is the unifying ancestral homeland. Andrea L. Smith uses history and ethnography to argue that scholars have failed to account for the effect of colonialism on Europe itself. She explores nostalgia and collective memory; the settlers' liminal position in the colony as subalterns and colonists; and selective forgetting, in which Malta replaces Algeria, the "true" homeland, which is now inaccessible, fraught with guilt and contradiction. The study provides insight into race, ethnicity, and nationalism in Europe as well as cultural context for understanding political trends in contemporary France.

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Colonial Metropolis

The Urban Grounds of Anti-Imperialism and Feminism in Interwar Paris

Jennifer Anne Boittin

World War I gave colonial migrants and French women unprecedented access to the workplaces and nightlife of Paris. After the war they were expected to return without protest to their homes–either overseas or metropolitan. Neither group, however, was willing to be discarded. Between the world wars, the mesmerizing capital of France’s colonial empire attracted denizens from Africa, the Caribbean, and the United States. Paris became not merely their home but also a site for political engagement. Colonial Metropolis tells the story of the interactions and connections of these black colonial migrants and white feminists in the social, cultural, and political world of interwar Paris and of how both were denied certain rights lauded by the Third Republic such as the vote, how they suffered from sensationalist depictions in popular culture, and how they pursued parity in ways that were often interpreted as politically subversive. This compelling book maps the intellectual and physical locales that the disenfranchised residents of Paris frequented, revealing where their stories intersected and how the personal and local became political and transnational. With a focus on art, culture, and politics, this study reveals how both groups considered themselves inhabitants of a colonial metropolis and uncovers the strategies they used to colonize the city. Together, through the politics of anti-imperialism, communism, feminism, and masculinity, these urbanites connected performances of colonial and feminine tropes, such as Josephine Baker’s, to contestations of the colonial system.

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Colonizer or Colonized

The Hidden Stories of Early Modern French Culture

By Sara E. Melzer

Colonizer or Colonized introduces two colonial stories into the heart of France's literary and cultural history. The first describes elite France's conflicted relationship to the Ancient World. As much as French intellectuals aligned themselves with the Greco-Romans as an "us," they also resented the Ancients as an imperial "them," haunted by the memory that both the Greeks and Romans had colonized their ancestors, the Gauls. This memory put the elite on the defensive--defending against the legacy of this colonized past and the fear that they were the barbarian other. The second story mirrored the first. Just as the Romans had colonized the Gauls, France would colonize the New World, becoming the "New Rome" by creating a "New France." Borrowing the Roman strategy, the French Church and State developed an assimilationist stance towards the Amerindian "barbarian." This policy provided a foundation for what would become the nation's most basic stance towards the other. However, this version of assimilation, unlike its subsequent ones, encouraged the colonized and the colonizer to engage in close forms of contact, such as mixed marriages and communities. This book weaves these two different stories together in a triangulated dynamic. It asks the Ancients to step aside to include the New World other into a larger narrative in which elite France carved out their nation's emerging cultural identity in relation to both the New World and the Ancient World. Sara E. Melzer is Professor of French and Francophone Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. She is the author of Discourses of the Fall: A Study of Pascal's Pensées and coeditor of From the Royal to the Republican Body: Incorporating the Political in Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century France.

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Commemorating Trauma

The Paris Commune and Its Cultural Aftermath

Peter Starr

Nothing says more about a culture than the way it responds to deeply traumatic events. The Reign of Terror, America's Civil War, the Holocaust, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Kennedy assassination, September 11th-watershed moments such as these can be rich sounding boards for the cultural historian patient enough to tease out the traumatic event's complex cultural resonances.This book is about one such moment in the history of modern France. The so-called Terrible Year began with the French army's crushing defeat at Sedan and the fall of the Second Empire in September of 1870, followed by the Prussian occupation of France and first siege of Paris in the fall and winter of that year. But no event of the period proved so deeply traumatic as the Paris Commune of 1871 and the bloody reprisals that attended its demise.Commemorating Trauma engages the rich body of recent scholarly work on cultural trauma to examine a curious conundrum. Why do French literary, historical and philosophical texts written in the aftermath of the Paris Commune so often employ the trope of confusion (in both the phenomenal and cognitive senses of that term) to register and work through the historical traumas of the Terrible Year? And how might these representations of confusion both reflect and inflect the confusions inherent to an ongoing process of social upheaval evident in late nineteenth-century France-a process whose benchmarks include democratization and the blurring of social classes, a persistent and evolving revolutionism, radical reconfigurations of the city as lived environment, and the development of specifically capitalist logics of commerce? These are the two principal questions addressed in this important study of cultural memory.

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The Complete Fables of Jean de La Fontaine

Jean de La Fontaine

Told in an elegant style, Jean de la Fontaines (1621-95) charming animal fables depict sly foxes and scheming cats, vain birds and greedy wolves, all of which subtly express his penetrating insights into French society and the beasts found in all of us. Norman R. Shapiro has been translating La Fontaines fables for over twenty years, capturing the original works lively mix of plain and archaic language. This newly complete translation is destined to set the English standard for this work

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The Complete Plays of Jean Racine

Volume 1: The Fratricides

Translated into rhymed couplets with critical notes and commentary by Geoffrey Alan Argent

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The Complete Plays of Jean Racine

Volume 2: Bajazet

Jean Racine

This is the second volume of a projected translation into English of all twelve of Jean Racine’s plays—only the third time such a project has been undertaken in the three hundred years since Racine’s death. For this new translation, Geoffrey Alan Argent has taken a fresh approach: he has rendered these plays in rhymed “heroic” couplets. While Argent’s translation is faithful to Racine’s text and tone, his overriding intent has been to translate a work of French literature into a work of English literature, substituting for Racine’s rhymed alexandrines (hexameters) the English mode of rhymed iambic pentameters, a verse form particularly well suited to the highly charged urgency of Racine’s drama and the coiled strength of his verse.

Complementing the translation are the illuminating Discussion, intended as much to provoke discussion as to provide it, and the extensive Notes and Commentary, which clarify obscure references, explicate the occasional gnarled conceit, and offer their own fresh and thought-provoking insights.

Bajazet, Racine’s seventh play, first given in 1672, is based on events that had taken place in the Sultan’s palace in Istanbul a mere thirty years earlier. But the twilit, twisting passageways of the Seraglio merely serve as a counterpart to the dim and errant moral sense of the play’s four protagonists: Bajazet, the Sultan’s brother; Atalide, Bajazet’s secret lover; Roxane, the Sultaness, who is madly in love with Bajazet and dangles over his head the death sentence the Sultan has ordered her to implement in his absence; and Akhmet, the wily, well-intentioned Vizier, who involves them all in an imbroglio in the Seraglio, with disastrous consequences. Unique among Racine’s plays, Bajazet provides no moral framework for either protagonists or audience. We watch as these benighted characters, cut adrift from any moral moorings, with no upright character at hand to serve as an ethical anchor and no religious or societal guidelines to serve as a lifeline, flail, flounder, and finally drag one another down. Here, Racine has presented us with his four most mercilessly observed, most subtly delineated, and most ambiguously fascinating characters. Indeed, Bajazet is certainly Racine’s most undeservedly neglected tragedy.

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The Complete Plays of Jean Racine

Volume 3: Iphigenia

Jean Racine and Translated into English rhymed couplets with critical notes and commentary by Geoffrey Alan Argent

This is the third volume of a projected translation into English of all twelve of Jean Racine’s plays—only the third time such a project has been undertaken. For this new translation, Geoffrey Alan Argent has rendered these plays in the verse form that Racine might well have used had he been English: namely, the “heroic” couplet. Argent has exploited the couplet’s compressed power and flexibility to produce a work of English literature, a verse drama as gripping in English as Racine’s is in French.

Complementing the translation are the illuminating Discussion, intended as much to provoke discussion as to provide it, and the extensive Notes and Commentary, which offer their own fresh and thought-provoking insights.

In Iphigenia, his ninth play, Racine returns to Greek myth for the first time since Andromache. To Euripides’s version of the tale he adds a love interest between Iphigenia and Achilles. And dissatisfied with the earlier resolutions of the Iphigenia myth (her actual death or her eleventh-hour rescue by a dea ex machina), Racine creates a wholly original character, Eriphyle, who, in addition to providing an intriguing new denouement, serves the dual dramatic purpose of triangulating the love interest and galvanizing the wholesome “family values” of this play by a jolt of supercharged passion.

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The Complete Plays of Jean Racine

Volume 4: Athaliah

Jean Racine and Translated into English rhymed couplets with critical notes and commentary by Geoffrey Alan Argent

As Voltaire famously opined, Athaliah, Racine’s last play, is “perhaps the greatest masterwork of the human spirit.” Its formidable antagonists, Athaliah, queen of Judah, and Jehoiada, high priest of the temple of Jerusalem, are engaged in a deadly struggle for dominion: she, fiercely determined to maintain her throne and exterminate the detested race of David; he, no less fiercely determined to overthrow this heathen queen and enthrone the orphan Joash, the scion of the house of David, whom Athaliah believes she slew as an infant ten years earlier. This boy represents the sole hope for the survival of the royal race from which is to spring the Christ. But in this play, even God is more about hate and retribution than about love and mercy. This is the fourth volume of a projected translation into English of all twelve of Jean Racine’s plays—only the third time such a project has been undertaken. For this new translation, Geoffrey Alan Argent has rendered these plays in the verse form that Racine might well have used had he been English: namely, the “heroic” couplet. Argent has exploited the couplet’s compressed power and flexibility to produce a work of English literature, a verse drama as gripping in English as Racine’s is in French. Complementing the translation are the illuminating Discussion, intended as much to provoke discussion as to provide it, and the extensive Notes and Commentary, which offer their own fresh and thought-provoking insights.

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