From Prairial to Pop Culture: Day Twenty-four. Departmental culture

The revolutionary government split up the country into 83 departments named after geographical features such as mountains and rivers. There are five major rivers (fleuves) in France, and they each are associated with at least one department, and one graces the name of no fewer than six! What is the name of that mighty waterway? Which river makes part of the name of six departments in metropolitan France?
1. Rhône
2. Dordogne
3. Garonne
4. Seine
5. Loire

From Prairial to Pop Culture: Day Twenty-three. Go East, young man: A comparison of continental expansion in the USA and France

In honor of the fourth of July: a reflection on continental expansion. Where we in the US remember the expansionist phase of our country’s history with the phrase, “Go West, young man”—a slogan once used to encourage pioneers to settle the “savage” Indian lands of the Midwest and Plains–in the France of the late 1790s, a similarly triumphalist attitude reigned supreme, which one could dub: “Go East, young man”—east into Italy, Switzerland, Germany. The politics were equally as problematic as ours, even if their rhetoric was couched in terms of extending “fraternity” to oppressed nations laboring under monarchy instead of conquering “derelict” countries whose “savage inhabitants were neither sufficiently numerous fitly to possess and utilize it, nor sufficiently skilled to be able to defend their occupancy.”*
An optimistic cosmopolitanism drives this expansionism, at least in theory. Orators such as Prussian nobleman Anacharsis Cloots advocated the abolition of all existing nations and the establishment of a single world state under which all human individuals would be subsumed. Henceforth all men would form a world-wide “republic of united individuals.”** Cloots’ rhetoric was later drawn upon to justify the creation—through military conquest–of the so-called “sister republics” or républiques sœurs of France during the Directory period (1795-99). Which of the following is not the name of a French république sœur?
1. La République cisalpine
2. La République deutsche
3. La République helvétique
4. La République ligurienne

* Thomas Cooley, “The Acquisition of Louisiana,” Indiana Historical Society Publications, Vol. 2 (Indianapolis, IN: The Bowen-Merrill Co., 1895).
**La République universelle ou adresse aux tyrannicides, 1792; Bases constitutionelles de la république du genre humain, 1793.

From Prairial to Pop Culture. Day Twenty-two. Word!

Lioncel103356 Dat a new word New Orleans

Slang terms and popular idioms are endlessly fascinating. Just think of the street smarts of the US, expressions like “Who dat?” and especially, “Word dat” (heard punctuating dialogue in the soulful New Orleans-based show, Treme), and the latest, “That’s dope” (featured in the gritty and likeable film, Dope). Not to mention the heavily charged words from our political scene: “Change,” for example, or “Life.” And then there are the new words that appear, “factoid,” “emoticon,” “meme.”  Incredible to see words rise and mutate into new meanings right before our eyes!

The revolutionary period also witnessed an explosion of new words and new meanings. And there were people like us witnessing it happen, and writing dictionaries and novels expressing their opinion about those words.  It was controversial then as it is now.

In Lioncel ou l’émigré (1795, 1800), a writer named Louis de Bruno provides a fascinating example of commentary on Jacobin speech. We know when he considers the revolutionaries ironically, because he puts their words in italics! (“Tu es un insigne menteur, un modéré, un honnête homme.”)

But words were also coined out of thin air or built on existing roots, as in our day. Which word from the following list was not invented in the 1790s?

  1. le terroriste
  2. la gauche / la droite
  3. la guillotine
  4. le traître

From Prairial to Pop Culture. Day Twenty-One. Revolutionary dishes

Chefs and politicians have always enjoyed naming new dishes (or renaming old ones) after famous people or events. One need only think of George W. Bush’s enthusiasm for “Freedom Fries,” the traditional connection of George Washington and cherry pie, or the Napoleonic “Chicken Marengo.”
Memories of the French Revolution are linked to some dishes too. Which one among the following list of dishes was not inspired by a revolutionary event or personality?
1. Soupe Jacobine
2. Lobster Thermidor
3. Tête de cochon (pig’s head)

From Prairial to Pop Culture. Day Twenty. Bad Mothers

Our media seem to be full of hand-wringing and accusations of bad mothering. First there was Amy Chua (the Tiger Mother) scolding people about being tougher, and then came Pamela Druckerman who made everybody ashamed for not being more “Parisian,” or smoking and drinking as much as they might secretly desire.

If it’s any consolation to the young mothers out there, this trend is not a new one. Consider the novels and plays published during the French Revolution, which are replete with misogynistic projections of bad mothers.  Which of the following is not an actual title published during the period?

  1. La mère rivale
  2. L’Autre Tartuffe ou la mère coupable
  3. La mère jalouse
  4. La mauvaise mère pardonnée par l’état

From Prairial to Pop Culture: Day Nineteen. Anger Management

pict99 indignes
The Occupy Wall Street movement was called Les Indignés in France. What revolutionary-era group shared a similarly exasperated name?
1. Les Fâchés
2. Les Colériques
3. Les Enragés
4. Les Furieux

From Prairial to Pop Culture. Day Eighteen. A Revolution for whom?

DT2141 Daumier The Laundresss
In hindsight, it is easy to praise the great strides made by the various revolutionary governments that passed radical legislation during the years 1789-1794. If we lived through events, however, we might see things differently.  According to historian William Doyle, in the conclusion to his Oxford History of the French Revolution, certain groups were seriously and detrimentally impacted by the Revolution, including the charitable teaching and care-oriented lower orders of the clergy and the vulnerable people they traditionally helped: children, orphans, the aged, and the infirm.  In fact, Doyle argues that hospitals and schools were much worse off by 1795 than they had been in 1789, and that the situation did not greatly improve over the next fifty years. “Yet some groups undoubtedly gained,” writes Doyle (407). Which of the following were the beneficiaries of the Revolution?

  1. landowners
  2. the bourgeois ranks of bureaucrats and members of the liberal professions
  3. soldiers
  4. all of the above

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