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Area and Ethnic Studies > French Studies
French Remembrance between Decolonization and Cold War
How does a nation come to terms with losing a war—especially an overseas war the purpose of which is fervently contested? In the ensuing years, how does such a nation construct and reconstruct its identity and values? For the French in Indochina, the stunning defeat at Dien Bien Phu ushered in the violent process of decolonization and a fraught reckoning with a colonial past. Contesting Indochina is the first in-depth study of the competing and intertwined narratives of the Indochina War. It analyzes the layers of French remembrance, focusing on state-sponsored commemoration, veterans’ associations, special-interest groups, intellectuals, films, and heated public disputes. These narratives make up the ideological battleground for contesting the legacies of colonialism, decolonization, the Cold War, and France’s changing global status.
The Great Inquisition of 1245-1246
On two hundred and one days between May 1, 1245, and August 1, 1246, more than five thousand people from the Lauragais were questioned in Toulouse about the heresy of the good men and the good women (more commonly known as Catharism). Nobles and diviners, butchers and monks, concubines and physicians, blacksmiths and pregnant girls--in short, all men over fourteen and women over twelve--were summoned by Dominican inquisitors Bernart de Caux and Jean de Saint-Pierre. In the cloister of the Saint-Sernin abbey, before scribes and witnesses, they confessed whether they, or anyone else, had ever seen, heard, helped, or sought salvation through the heretics. This inquisition into heretical depravity was the single largest investigation, in the shortest time, in the entire European Middle Ages.
Mark Gregory Pegg examines the sole surviving manuscript of this great inquisition with unprecedented care--often in unexpected ways--to build a richly textured understanding of social life in southern France in the early thirteenth century. He explores what the interrogations reveal about the individual and communal lives of those interrogated and how the interrogations themselves shaped villagers' perceptions of those lives. The Corruption of Angels, similar in breadth and scope to Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie's Montaillou, is a major contribution to the field. It shows how heretical and orthodox beliefs flourished side by side and, more broadly, what life was like in one particular time and place. Pegg's passionate and beautifully written evocation of a medieval world will fascinate a diverse readership within and beyond the academy.
Catechism and Primary Education in Early Modern France
The religious education of children represents a critical component of the Catholic Reformation that has often been overlooked by historians of early modern Europe. In Creating Catholics: Catechism and Primary Education in Early Modern France, Karen E. Carter examines rural schooling in France in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries—the period when community-supported primary education began—and brings to light a significant element of the early modern period. Carter scrutinizes Catholic religious education in rural parishes in France through its two leading forms: the explosion of Catholic catechisms for children and their use in village schools. She concentrates on educational opportunities for rural peasants in three French dioceses: Auxerre (in Burgundy) and Châlons-sur-Marne and Reims (in Champagne). Carter argues that the study of catechism in village schools was an integral part of a comprehensive program, implemented by both clerical and lay leaders, for the religious, ethical, and moral education of children. Her research demonstrates that the clergy and a majority of the lay population believed in the efficacy of this program; for this reason, parish priests taught catechism in their parishes on a weekly basis, and small village communities established and paid for a surprisingly large number of local schools so that their sons and daughters could receive an education both in basic literacy skills and, through memorization of catechism, in Catholic faith and practice.
Colonial France and Joseph Bédier’s Middle Ages
In Creole Medievalism, Michelle Warren demonstrates that Bédier's relationship to this multicultural and economically peripheral colony motivates his nationalism in complex ways. Simultaneously proud of his French heritage and nostalgic for the island, Bédier defends French sovereignty based on an ambivalent resistance to his creole culture. Warren shows that in the early twentieth century, influential intellectuals from Réunion helped define the new genre of the "colonial novel," adopting a pro-colonial spirit that shaped both medieval and Francophone studies. Probing the work of a once famous but little understood cultural figure, Creole Medievalism illustrates how postcolonial France and Réunion continue to grapple with histories too varied to meet expectations of national unity.
Demonology and Politics in France, 1560-1620
One of the most intriguing, and disturbing, aspects of history is that most people in early modern Europe believed in the reality and dangers of witchcraft. Most historians have described the witchcraft phenomenon as one of tremendous violence. In France, dozens of books, pamphets and tracts, depicting witchcraft as the most horrible of crimes, were published and widely distributed.
Yet, in his new book, The Crime of Crimes: Demonology and Politics in France, 1560-1620, Jonathan Pearl shows that France carried out relatively few executions for witchcraft. Through careful research he shows that a zealous Catholic faction identified the Protestant rebels as traitors and heretics in league with the devil and clamoured for the political and legal establishment to exterminate these enemies of humanity. But the courts were dominated by moderate Catholics whose political views were in sharp contrast to those of the zealots and, as a result, the demonologists failed to ignite a major witch-craze in France.
Very few studies have taken such a careful and penetrating look at demonology in France. The Crime of Crimes: Demonology and Politics in France, 1560-1620 sheds new light on an important period in the history of witchcraft and will be welcomed by scholars and laypersons alike.
Georges Duhamel and His Writings
As one of the outstanding minds of France, the career of George Duhamel reflects the universal range of his interests. A physician turned poet, playwright, novelist, publicist, critic, and world traveler, Duhamel for half a century has sought as a liberal humanist to defend the moral and aesthetic values of Western civilization against the encroachment of a dehumanizing machine age.
Duhamel first achieved fame as a writer with two eloquent outcries against war in Vie des Martyrs and Civilisation, written while he was a front-line surgeon during World War I. His later plays and novels continued to deal with the search of the individual for identity in contemporary life, especially in the Salavin series and the ten-volume Chronique des Pasquier, his outstanding works of fiction. Among the commentaries on other cultures arising from his travels, Duhamel's scathing criticism of the United States in Scenes de la vie future aroused particular furor.
It is in Duhamel's feeling for humanity, Mr. Keating believes, that one may discover the consistent pattern in Duhamel's work, essentially the passionate reaction of a surgeon-artist to the cruelties of a war-torn world. In this critical biography of Duhamel as writer and thinker, Mr. Keating therefore relates all of Duhamel's many-sided activities to his underlying purpose -- to find a path for individual happiness in the complexities of contemporary life.
Representations of Deafness in Biography
This remarkable volume examines the process by which three deaf, French biographers from the 19th and 20th centuries attempted to cross the cultural divide between deaf and hearing worlds through their work. The very different approach taken by each writer sheds light on determining at what point an individual’s assimilation into society endangers his or her sense of personal identity. Author Hartig begins by assessing the publications of Jean-Ferdinand Berthier (1803–1886). Berthier wrote about Auguste Bébian, Abbé de l’Epée, and Abbé Sicard, all of whom taught at the National Institute for the Deaf in Paris. Although Berthier presented compelling portraits of their entire lives, he paid special attention to their political and social activism, his main interest. Yvonne Pitrois (1880-1937) pursued her particular interest in the lives of deaf-blind people. Her biography of Helen Keller focused on her subject’s destiny in conjunction with her unique relationship with Anne Sullivan. Corinne Rocheleau-Rouleau (1881-1963) recounted the historical circumstances that led French-Canadian pioneer women to leave France. The true value of her work resides in her portraits of these pioneer women: maternal women, warriors, religious women, with an emphasis on their lives and the choices they made. Crossing the Divide reveals clearly the passion these biographers shared for narrating the lives of those they viewed as heroes of an emerging French deaf community. All three used the genre of biography not only as a means of external exploration but also as a way to plumb their innermost selves and to resolve ambivalence about their own deafness.
Long before Rabelaisian tales of gargantuan gluttony regaled early modern audiences, and centuries before pie-in-the-face gags enlivened vaudeville slapstick, medieval French poets employed food as a powerful device of humor and criticism.Food and laughter, essential elements in human existence, can be used to question the meaning of cultural conventions concerning the body and sexuality, religion, class hierarchies, and gender relations. This book unites the cultural and literary study of representations of food and consumption with theoretical approaches to comedy, humor, and parody in late twelfth- through early-fourteenth-century French fictional verse narratives of epic chanson de geste, theater, Arthurian verse romance, fabliau, and the beast epic of the Roman de Renart. From socially inept epic heroes to hungry knights-errant and mischievous fabliau housewives, out of the ordinary food usage embodies humor. Some knights prefer fighting with roast chicken or bread loaves rather than their swords. Specific foods such as sausages, lard, pears, nuts, or chickens provoked laughter by their mere presence in a scene. Culinary comedy serves as both social satire and literary parody, playing with institutional social conduct and alimentary codes. Its power lies in its ability to disrupt and to reinforce the same conventions it ridicules.
Trans-Mediterranean France and the Construction of French Modernity
The Cult of the Modern focuses on nineteenth-century France and Algeria and examines the role that ideas of modernity and modernization played in both national and colonial programs during the years of the Second Empire and the early Third Republic. Gavin Murray-Miller rethinks the subject by examining the idiomatic use of modernity in French cultural and political discourse. The Cult of the Modern argues that the modern French republic is a product of nineteenth-century colonialism rather than a creation of the Enlightenment or the French Revolution. This analysis contests the predominant Parisian and metropolitan contexts that have traditionally framed French modernity studies, noting the important role that colonial Algeria and the administration of Muslim subjects played in shaping understandings of modern identity and governance among nineteenth-century politicians and intellectuals.
In synthesizing the narratives of continental France and colonial North Africa, Murray-Miller proposes a new framework for nineteenth-century French political and cultural history, bringing into sharp relief the diverse ways in which the French nation was imagined and represented throughout the country’s turbulent postrevolutionary history, as well as the implications for prevailing understandings of France today.