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Area and Ethnic Studies > French Studies
Infamous Letters from the Bastille Archives
Drunken and debauched husbands; libertine wives; vagabonding children. These and many more are the subjects of requests for confinement written to the king of France in the 18th century. These letters of arrest (lettres de cachet) from France’s Ancien Régime were often associated with excessive royal power and seen as a way for the king to imprison political opponents. In Disorderly Families, first published in 1982, Arlette Farge and Michel Foucault collect 94 letters from ordinary families who, with the help of hired scribes, submitted complaints to the king to intervene and resolve their family disputes.
Gathered together, these letters show something other than the exercise of arbitrary royal power, and offer unusual insight into the infamies of daily life. From these letters come stories of divorce and marital conflict, sexual waywardness, reckless extravagance, and abandonment. The letters evoke a fluid social space in which life in the home and on the street was regulated by the rhythms of relations between husbands and wives, or parents and children. Most arrestingly, these letters outline how ordinary people seized the mechanisms of power to address the king and make demands in the name of an emerging civil order.
Arlette Farge and Michel Foucault were fascinated by the letters’ explosive qualities, and how they both illustrated and intervened in the workings of power and governmentality. Disorderly Families sheds light on Foucault’s conception of political agency and his commitment to theorizing how ordinary lives come to be touched by power. This first English translation is complete with an introduction from the editor, Nancy Luxon, as well as notes that contextualize the original 1982 publication and 18th century policing practices.
Material Culture and Metaphysics in the Heptameron and Evangelical Narrative
arthly Treasures maps the presence, position and use in the narrative of a variety of material objects in Marguerite de Navarre's Heptameron. There is a wide selection of objects, ranging from tapestries with scripture passages woven into the borders, fine arts paintings, chalices incised with proverbs, emblems, table linens, copies of Bibles or manuscripts, clothing, masks, stage props, jewelry, furniture and foodstuffs. Although the presence of such material objects seems paradoxical, given the scriptural mandate to disregard things of this world, and to "store up treasure", rather, in heaven, Marguerite found license to use such objects both in the Bible and in the daily life-oriented and artifact-studded sermons and writings collected in the Table Talk of Martin Luther.
Why do some elites survive while others do not? How do certain institutions manage to preserve their importance in the face of crises, instability, and change? How does a democratic society legitimize elitist institutions? Combining the use of important social theories—particularly those of Mosca, Schumpeter, Tocqueville, and Pareto—with empirical analysis, Ezra Suleiman tries to answer these questions in his examination of the dominance and stability of France's governing elites.
The author draws on original survey data, historical evidence, and specialized documentary sources. His three part discussion deals, first, with the state institutions that nurture the French elite; second, with the organization, legitimization, and adaptation of the elite and its institutions; and third, with some of the policy and political implications of France's elitist system. In the final section of his book, he closely examines the relationship between elites in the public and private sectors.
In his investigation of France's "state-created" elites, Professor Suleiman shows the great importance of the grandes écoles in training and promoting the elites, and the grand corps in providing a base from which the elites launch themselves into extra-governmental careers. He also finds that the elites' capacity to adapt to an evolving social, political, and economic environment is a major factor in their ability to survive.
Originally published in 1979.
The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.
French Soldiers' Testimony of the Great War
How did the soldiers in the trenches of the Great War understand and explain battlefield experience, and themselves through that experience? Situated at the intersection of military history and cultural history, The Embattled Self draws on the testimony of French combatants to explore how combatants came to terms with the war. In order to do so, they used a variety of narrative tools at hand—rites of passage, mastery, a character of the soldier as a consenting citizen of the Republic. None of the resulting versions of the story provided a completely consistent narrative, and all raised more questions about the "truth" of experience than they answered. Eventually, a story revolving around tragedy and the soldier as victim came to dominate—even to silence—other types of accounts. In thematic chapters, Leonard V. Smith explains why the novel structured by a specific notion of trauma prevailed by the 1930s.
Smith canvasses the vast literature of nonfictional and fictional testimony from French soldiers to understand how and why the "embattled self" changed over time. In the process, he undermines the conventional understanding of the war as tragedy and its soldiers as victims, a view that has dominated both scholarly and popular opinion since the interwar period. The book is important reading not only for traditional historians of warfare but also for scholars in a variety of fields who think critically about trauma and the use of personal testimony in literary and historical studies.
Toward a Critique of (Post)colonial Expression
The relationship between power and language has been a central theme in critical theory for decades now, yet there is still much to be learned about the sheer force of language in the world in which we live. In Empire of Language, Laurent Dubreuil explores the power-language phenomenon in the context of European and, particularly, French colonialism and its aftermath. Through readings of the colonial experience, he isolates a phraseology based on possession, in terms of both appropriation and haunting, that has persisted throughout the centuries. Not only is this phraseology a legacy of the past, it is still active today, especially in literary renderings of the colonial experience-but also, and more paradoxically, in anticolonial discourse. This phrase shaped the teaching of European languages in the (former) empires, and it tried to configure the usage of those idioms by the "Indigenes." Then, scholarly disciplines have to completely reconsider their discursive strategies about the colonial, if, at least, they attempt to speak up.
Dubreuil ranges widely in terms of time and space, from the ancien régime through the twentieth century, from Paris to Haiti to Quebec, from the Renaissance to the riots in the banlieues. He examines diverse texts, from political speeches, legal documents, and colonial treatises to anthropological essays, poems of the Négritude, and contemporary rap, ever attuned to the linguistic strategies that undergird colonial power. Equally conversant in both postcolonial criticism and poststructuralist scholarship on language, but also deeply grounded in the sociohistorical context of the colonies, Dubreuil sets forth the conditions for an authentically postcolonial scholarship, one that acknowledges the difficulty of getting beyond a colonialism-and still maintains the need for an afterward.
Academic Prize Contests and Intellectual Culture in France, 1670–1794
Public academic prize contests-the concours académique-played a significant role in the intellectual life of Enlightenment France, with aspirants formulating positions on such matters as slavery, poverty, the education of women, tax reform, and urban renewal and submitting the resulting essays for scrutiny by panels of judges. In The Enlightenment in Practice, Jeremy L. Caradonna draws on archives both in Paris and the provinces to show that thousands of individuals-ranging from elite men and women of letters artisans, and peasants-participated in these intellectual competitions, a far broader range of people than has been previously assumed.
Caradonna contends that the Enlightenment in France can no longer be seen as a cultural movement restricted to a small coterie of philosophers or a limited number of printed texts. Moreover, Caradonna demonstrates that the French monarchy took academic competitions quite seriously, sponsoring numerous contests on such practical matters as deforestation, the quality of drinking water, and the nighttime illumination of cities. In some cases, the contests served as an early mechanism for technology transfer: the state used submissions to identify technical experts to whom it could turn for advice. Finally, the author shows how this unique intellectual exercise declined during the upheavals of the French Revolution, when voicing moderate public criticism became a rather dangerous act.