‘The French Revolution Effect’ Workshop, King’s College London, June 4-5, 2015

Kings College London

I am delighted to put in a plug here for the ‘French Revolution Effect’ Workshop to be held this summer in London, with admiration for Rosa Mucignat and Sanja Perovic who’ve organized it. You’ll note that speakers touch on many hot topics in the air, such as the circulation of ideas among sister republics of France, as well as Ireland, Spain, Switzerland and Germany. Also of interest are papers on émigré literature and the politics of memory. On that note of circulating, there is also much talk of movement–of troops, of transnational charity, or of pencils, which “draw distance” after the Terror–by one of my favorite art historians, Richard Taws.

I’ve pasted the program below.  Hope to see you there!

‘The French Revolution Effect’ Workshop, King’s College London


Thursday 4 June

 14:00-14:15     Welcome and introductory remarks

14:15-15:45    Panel 1: Temporalities of Revolution

Paul Hamilton (QMUL), Revisionism: Contemporary Refigurings of Revolution

Roderick Beaton (King’s), Imagining a Hellenic Republic, 1797-1812: Rigas, Korais, Byron

Maike Oergel (Nottingham), The ‘nation’ and ‘freedom’ as politically radical concepts in the

context of post-Napoleonic political agitation in Germany: the case of Burschenschaftler Karl and August Follen 1815-24

15:45 -16:00    Coffee break

16:00-17:30    Panel 2: Radical Memory

Jon Mee (York), Universal Liberty and Radical Memory: The Case of John Thelwall in the 1790s

Catriona Kennedy (York), Republican Relicts: Gender, Mourning, and the Memory of the 1798 Irish Rebellion

Daniel Muñoz Sempere (King’s), The Spanish Bastille: The Inquisition and the Rise of Liberalism in Spain

 18:00-19:30    Guided tour of Freemasonry Museum and Library

Friday 5 June

 9:30-11:00      Panel 3: Transnational Politics of Religion and Dissent

Adam Sutcliffe (King’s), Jewish Enlightenment, the French Revolution, and the Time of the Jewish Left

Emma Major (York), Sins of the Nation: Anna Laetitia Barbauld and God’s Citizens

Erica Mannucci (Milan – Bicocca), The Democratization of Anti-Religious Thought in Revolutionary Times: A Transnational Perspective

  11:00-11:15    Coffee break

11:30-13:00    Panel 4: Mapping Revolution at Home and Abroad

Julia Douthwaite (Notre Dame), Mapping Concepts in Movement, ca. 1790, 1798, and 1830: The Evidence of La Boussole nationale, Pauliska, and Le Rouge et le Noir

Francesco Manzini (Oxford), Stendhal’s Franco-Italian Revolution

Jasper Heinzen (York), Paying Interest on the Wages of War: German Veterans of the British Army and the Transnational Politics of Charity in (Post-)Napoleonic Europe 

13:00-14:30    Lunch

14:00-15:30    Panel 5: Feelings in Motion and at a Distance

Richard Taws,  (UCL) Inventions of the Pencil: Drawing Distance after the Terror

Elystan Griffiths (Birmingham), Space and the Revolution in German Writing after 1789

Kate Astbury (Warwick), The Melodramatic Effect

15:30-16:00    Coffee break

16:00 -17:30   Roundtable discussion: Keywords of the Revolution in Europe

King’s College London Chapel, 18:00:  Performance of Sylvain Maréchal’s Le Jugement dernier des rois (1793) by the students of the French Department.

Thoughts on Pavel’s notion of ontological landscaping and planning: a tool for émigré literature

caspardavidfriedrich_thewandererabovethemistsOn this sunny spring day, I am really enjoying reading Thomas Pavel, Fictional Worlds.
Some thoughts on Pavel
Great quote and intriguing definition of fiction:
Nelson Goodman once suggested that we should replace the question, “What is art?” by “When is art?” and offer a pragmatic answer. “Fiction is when world versions find secondary users.”
But that would not cover all cases. Seems to make the distinction between “nonreligious fictional activities, such as the ‘laughing stories’ of the Cherokees, animal stories, anecdotes, folktales and so on.”
He says that, “to derive these from older unused or degraded myths is not always easy. On the contrary, a considerable number of folktales that are based on nonmythical material may have originated in the observation of current social life. … independently of other discarded world models.
Says we should not define fiction in historical terms only as “the result of decayed myth,” and instead characterize it as “ontological landscaping and planning.” Taking the division of the ontological space into central and peripheral modes as a very general formal organization of the beliefs of a community, we may localize fiction as a peripheral region used for ludic and instructional purposes.
I love this paradigm for émigré literature!
ontological landscaping and planning!
Pauliska runs from country to country, through mountain passes and torrential rivers. Seems like a good way to try and figure out what that might mean. Why does she range over such a lot of land, from Poland to Hungary, Austria, and Italy, ending in Lausanne, Switzerland? (Well the end in Switzerland is not rocket science).
Delves into the earth (chez d’Olnitz, in the glacier, and the subterranean cell of the counterfeitors). A new direction to follow for the “French Revolution Effect” workshop at King’s College London in June 2015.

*Thomas G. Pavel, Fictional Worlds (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1986), 143.

In hommage to La Commune de Paris: March 18


This day, March 18, marks the 144th anniversary of the beginning of the end for the Paris Communards.  In honor of their vision of a just and equal workers’ society, we publish the beautiful song, “Le Temps des Cerises,” by Jean-Baptiste Clément.  According to legend, it is dedicated to a heroic ambulancière or paramedic who refused to leave the side of the fighters and who was never seen again when the smoke lifted from the streets of Paris in March–May 1871.

Quand nous chanterons le temps des cerises,
Et gai rossignol, et merle moqueur
Seront tous en fête !
Les belles auront la folie en tête
Et les amoureux du soleil au cœur !
Quand nous chanterons le temps des cerises
Sifflera bien mieux le merle moqueur !

Mais il est bien court, le temps des cerises
Où l’on s’en va deux cueillir en rêvant
Des pendants d’oreilles…
Cerises d’amour aux robes pareilles,
Tombant sous la feuille en gouttes de sang…
Mais il est bien court, le temps des cerises,
Pendants de corail qu’on cueille en rêvant !

Quand vous en serez au temps des cerises,
Si vous avez peur des chagrins d’amour,
Evitez les belles !
Moi qui ne crains pas les peines cruelles
Je ne vivrai pas sans souffrir un jour…
Quand vous en serez au temps des cerises
Vous aurez aussi des chagrins d’amour !

J’aimerai toujours le temps des cerises,

C’est de ce temps-là que je garde au cœur
Une plaie ouverte !

Et dame Fortune, en m’étant offerte
Ne saurait jamais calmer ma douleur…

J’aimerai toujours le temps des cerises
Et le souvenir que je garde au cœur !

Jean-Baptiste Clément (1866)

The Frankenstein of 1790: 20% discount until May 1! and other topical news

Douthwaite_J_Frankenstein_This just in: the University of Chicago Press has allowed my book, The Frankenstein of 1790 and Other Lost Chapters from Revolutionary France, to be sold at a 20% discount until May 1!  Coupon Douthwaite_Flyer-US-150310 (1).

Perhaps I’ll see some of you readers in Los Angeles next week, at the annual meeting of the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies? That is always a super fun conference–there is always such a broad variety of interests present, in art, film, literature, history, philosophy, and music. It is a pleasure to attend, especially if you can refrain from assiduously taking notes and just enjoy taking in the beautiful words and strange artifacts from long ago.

fyi, my two events at ASECS are:

Thursday March 19, 9:45–11:15am

Panel no. 33: “The Directoire (1795-99): A Forgotten Milestone in European Immigration.” I am proud to chair this session featuring the excellent new work of Ourida Mostefai, Kelly Summers, and Christopher Tozzi.

Friday March 20, 4:15–5:45pm

Panel no. 153: “Gothic Fiction, Gothic Events: An 18th-Century Myopoesis of the Present?” (New Lights Forum: Cont. Perspectives on the Enlightenment).

I’m presenting: “The Revenge of the Hot Baroque: or How the French Revolution Was Remembered in the 1800s and Lives on Today, in Style”

This paper is inspired in part by Chris White’s fabulous article posted here, and reflections on film, fashion advertising. Very fun!

Essays sought on Ibero-American Echoes of the French Revolution


Essay proposals are invited for a volume in the MLA’s Options for Teaching series entitled Teaching Representations of the French Revolution, to be edited by Julia Douthwaite (University of Notre Dame), Catriona Seth (Université de Lorraine), and Antoinette Sol  (University of Texas Arlington) The goal of this collection of essays is to make the field more accessible to non-specialists and to teachers in different settings, from the Humanities class at a community college to the research seminar in a graduate program. The collection of essays will complement traditional sources and include the arts, ephemera, realia, archival material and once popular but now forgotten texts in the classroom.  Accordingly, we intend to highlight through a number of settings how the revolutionary heritage lives on in our own vulnerable times. As a glance at any newspaper will reveal, we still live in a world of propaganda, advertisement, political violence, terrorism, revolution, and reaction. The essays in this proposed volume will speak to ways current students will be helped in understanding these things as well as learning about more narrowly focused topics.

We seek essays from Ibero-American fields on Global Reverberations: The Impact of Emigration and Radicalism.

We are particularly interested in pedagogically-oriented essays on ways to integrate the French Revolution into diverse courses, along with ways to present difficult material, how to engage students, and how to help students acquire the necessary contexts to understand the volume’s topic.  In addition, essays dealing with teaching with translations, finding source materials (written, visual, or musical), and suggestions for ways to use these in the classroom are welcome.

If you are interested in contributing an essay (3,000-3,500 words) to one of these sections, please submit an abstract of approximately 500 words in which you describe your approach or topic and explain its potential benefit for students and instructors alike. The focus of proposed essays should be pedagogical.

Note that if you plan to quote from student writing in your essay, you must obtain written permission from your students to do so. Proposed essays should not be previously published.

Abstracts and CVs should be sent to the volume editors by 1 June 2015. Please send e-mail submissions to Professor Julia Douthwaite (jdouthwa@nd.edu), Professor Catriona Seth (Catriona.Seth@univ-lorraine.fr), and Professor Antoinette Sol (amsol@uta.edu) with the subject line “Approaches to Teaching the Fr Rev.” Surface-mail submissions can be sent to Professor Douthwaite at the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556.

On secular values six weeks after the Charlie Hebdo massacre


Not sure what to think about secular values in France?  How about admiration?  Instead of suggesting that France should be more like other countries where religion has been allowed to creep into the public sphere (or is welcomed with open arms into the public sphere as in the USA), I suggest we celebrate the freedom allowed by la laïcité, especially in schools.

I’ve been following with interest the reporting on France by the New York Times since the Charlie Hebdo massacre.  It has been very careful.  An article on 1/19/15 entitled “An Inclusive French Republic” concluded that “France’s minister of education, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, who is French-Moroccan, is to announce new measures on Monday to better explain French ‘republican values’ in the schools.  For the lessons to work, the Hollande government must find ways to make those values a reality for the many French youths who feel marginalized from French society.” The profile of Vallaud-Belkacem in the 2/21/15 “Saturday Profile” of the New York Times stresses her outsider status, as one of seven children of a poor immigrant family where traditional gender roles were the norm, to her rise through the ranks of the Socialist Party and her current status as Minister of Education.  It gives ample coverage of the attacks she has been subjected to in the conservative media and among other Muslims.  What is missing is support for her plans.

Instead of scrutinizing Vallaud-Balkacem for potential weaknesses, we should support her efforts to continue the French republican heritage into the 21st century.  She is a transitional figure, building on the strength of her silent mother—and legions of other Muslim women—who seek a better life for themselves and their children through public education. The article notes that despite the rigid patriarchy of their home, “her mother nevertheless pushed the seven children to study and encouraged the girls to be financially independent.”  In the photo, we see that Vallaud-Belkacem wears no headscarf, and in the few remarks that quote her directly, she states a powerful and admirable goal, of making “a lifetime commitment against social injustices, against inequalities.”  The ultimate solution to the French identity, now as in 1905, lies in education.  Carefully avoiding criticism of the way she herself was raised, she nevertheless notes, “Endless political debates have stigmatized Muslim families.  School needs to teach people that everyone is part of one community and that we are all free and equal.”

Vallaud-Belkacem is a beacon of hope.  In honor of her strong spirit, we should continue the media attention in support of republican values.  We should cheer on her efforts to combat the creeping tentacles of private interests (religious or otherwise) from encroaching into the sphere of public education.  As citizens of the premier democracy of the world, we Americans should acclaim the power of public education to change people’s lives for the better.

Thoughts on reading Jonathan Israel: On the origins of the French Revolution

Never one to hide his light under a bushel, Jonathan Israel comes out swinging in his recent work, Revolutionary Ideas: An Intellectual History of the French Revolution from the ‘Rights of Man’ to Robespierre (Oxford and Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014).  As stated in the Introduction and restated frequently throughout, Israel’s goal is to prove that, contrary to the work of virtually every historian of the French Revolution, no one has yet understood its origins.  This situation leaves us in terrible straits, he claims, “with an uncommonly urgent need for some very sweeping and drastic revision” (p. 29).  The Revolution was not caused by social, economic, political, or cultural forces but rather by intellectual trends:  dangerous ideas foisted on the French by the most radical and anti-establishmentarian of the eighteenth-century philosophes. As he states: “Neither classical republicanism . . . nor Rousseau’s deism underpinned the democratic thrust behind the most comprehensively radical and revolutionary writings of the late eighteenth century.  The true underpinning was the confident secularism pronouncing philosophical reason the engine of universal human emancipation deriving from the encyclopédistes and, earlier still from the radical thinkers of the late seventeenth-century Enlightenment.” To prove this point, Israel enlists a massive array of evidence but it all winds down to a list of ten books, of “the major textual sources that shaped this democratic republican political culture after 1750″ (707).

Among the Top Ten are: 1. Diderot’s political articles and exposition of the volonté générale in the Encyclopédie; 2) Rousseau’s Discourses and Social Contract; 3) the Histoire philosophique (1770); 4) D’Holbach’s La Politique naturelle (1773); 5) D’Holbach’s Système social (1773); 6) Helvétius’s De L’homme (1773), and 7-8) Paine’s Rights of Man (1791) and Age of Reason (1793) along with 9) Condorcet’s political writings, and 10) Volney’s Les Ruines (1791) (707).

Although there is much to admire in Revolutionary Ideas, this central argument grates.  I wondered at first if it was only me.  But since reviewing the book a couple months ago, I have had the interesting experience of finding yet more scholars whose claims on the “origins of the French Revolution” Israel should have consulted before throwing his opinions into the world.

In my review, I point out that despite the vehemence of his argumentation, Israel’s  claims on the readability and powerful impact of philosophical texts such as Rousseau’s Social Contract are erroneous.*  There is a well-documented, deeply  thoughtful body of scholarship on the whole “history of audience reactions to The Social Contract” issue; one need only think of the findings that great historian-critics such as Robert Darnton and Daniel Mornet showed us years ago, on the reading tastes of eighteenth-century Frenchmen.  It all discounts Israel’s claims.

And just last week I found more evidence that runs counter to Israel’s claims, in the fascinating work on economics in the eighteenth century.  It would have been good if Israel had thought to read Niall Ferguson, The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World (2008), as well.  Ferguson claims that, instead of Rousseau or D’Holbach, it was the early eighteenth-century financier and one-time Controller General of France, John Law, who caused the French Revolution.   As he writes, “John Law was not only responsible for the first true boom and bust in asset prices, he also may be said to have caused, indirectly, the French Revolution by comprehensively blowing the best chance that the ancien régime monarchy had to reform its finances” (126).

Hmmm…   what to think?

* Review of Politics, forthcoming, Spring 2015 Volume 77 Issue 2


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