13th annual Bastille Day Quiz:  From Antiquity to Post-Humanity, w/answers and congrats!

Timothée Chalamet in The French Dispatch (2021, directed by Wes Anderson)

13th annual Bastille Day Quiz:  From Antiquity to Post-Humanity

(New this year! Play the quiz game and win an authentic assignat! See instructions below.)

1. Among the Roman statesmen and philosophers of Antiquity who inspired the leaders of the French Revolution is one whose name literally means “chickpea.” Who was that esteemed stoic philosopher?

a. Chrysippus

b. Epictetus       

c. Bizélius

d. Cicero

2. The American revolt of 1776 which led to the overthrow of British rule was caused, in part, by a certain tree. Modern readers are aware of this, thanks to Richard Powers’s stirring saga about the power of trees, The Overstory. Which tree species was it, that felled the British empire in America?

a. walnut           

b. hickory          

c. elm                 

d. maple

3. A revolutionary has-been. Once Finance Minister under King Louis XVI, it was he who suggested the convocation of the Estates General, and whose abrupt departure from the government is said to have provoked the Storming of the Bastille in July 1789. In later years, however, his fortunes would be overshadowed by the fame of his brilliant daughter Germaine.  What is his name?

a. Jacques Necker (1732-1804)

b. Fabre de Greer (1755-1794)

c. Maximilien Robespierre (1758-1794)

d. Antoine-Quentin Fouquier-Tinville (1746-1795)

4. Time and its vicissitudes. As any revolution-watcher knows, new names pave the way to new realities. That is why the French revolutionaries created a new calendar, to sweep away the past. On October 6, 1793 (15 Vendémiaire Year 2), the Convention decided to create a new calendar for the new Republic, fixing the start date as the day when that Republic was proclaimed, namely the autumn equinox, September 22, 1792. They adopted new, more poetic names for all the months.  Which of the following is not a month in the republican calendar?  

a. Germinal (with connotations of fertility, for spring)

b. Frimaire (associated with froid, cold, for winter)

c. Ignisia (from fire in Latin, associated with the fiery protests of summer)

d. Brumaire (linked to brume or fog, for autumn)

5. In 1790, the National Assembly declared that all free people of color should have equal rights with the white colonists of French territories such as Saint Domingue, and in May 1791, the Constituent Assembly gave full voting and civic rights to free people of color—all the while preserving slavery. This confusing and insulting state of affairs may have incited a former enslaved man, previously known as François Dominique, to take action and lead his country to eventual liberation from France. What is the more well-known name of that Haitian leader?

a. Jean-Pierre Boyer

b. Toussaint Louverture

c. Wyclef Jean

d. Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier

6. Although the poetry of André Chénier (1762-1794) gained fame from his association with the Revolution, the poet’s actual opinions put him at odds with the leaders of the Terror. His views reflect the Girondistes, the privileged, financial elite who were hoping to gain the required time to reorganize state finances and ensure the establishment of a social contract based on free enterprise and property rights. This put him at odds with what rival faction in 1794?

a. the Montagnards

b. the Émissaires de bouc

c. the Pépinistes

d. the Communards

7. Thomas Paine’s treatise, The Rights of Man (1791-92) played a major role in revolutionary events, and more than one later author paid him tribute. Indeed a ship named the Rights-of-Man figures prominently in what story by American novelist Herman Melville (1819-1891)?

a. Moby Duck

b. Bartleby the Scrivener

c. Billy Budd, Sailor

d. The Piazza

8. In Virginia Woolf’s masterpiece, To the Lighthouse (1927), there is a grandiose and somewhat ridiculous academic father figure who gives lectures on the causes of the French Revolution. What is his name?

a. Mr. Carmichael          

b. Mr. Ramsey                

c. Mr. Dalton                   

d. Mr. Dalloway

9. Film director Wes Anderson pays wry and exquisite homage to French culture in his 2021 comedy, The French Dispatch, by shooting one key scene in a bathroom where the radical young hero pens a manifesto in the tub. The young man’s costume and pose (seen in the image above) are reminiscent of what revolutionary-era leader?

a. Maximilien Robespierre         

b. Camille Desmoulins  

c. Jean-Paul Marat         

d. Georges Jacques Danton

10. In the 2021 post-apocalyptic mini-series, Station Eleven, a tanker named after a person with ties to the French Revolution seems to hold the key to escape. This happens when the world is threatened with a pandemic, and a sympathetic character has access to get aboard that ship. (She chooses not to, unfortunately.) What is the name of the ship?

a. The Robespierre

b. The Tom Paine

c. The Marat

d. The Danton


New! This year “A Revolution in Fiction” is delighted to offer a prize—an authentic assignat—to the person who submits the first set of correct answers!  Rules of the game:

1.The 13th annual Bastille Day Quiz will be posted on-line, on this blog, at 8am Pacific time (USA) on July 14, 2022:  https://revolutioninfiction.wordpress.com/

2. To enter the game, take the quiz and then type your answers in an email, with subject “Rev Quiz”, and email it to the editor at jdouthwa@nd.edu .

3. Answers will be scrutinized by the editor on a first-come-first-serve basis. The first set of correct answers to be received will be declared the winner and the person’s name will be posted on the blog asap, on July 14, 2022. If no one gets 100% the highest scorer at midnight will be announced the winner and the answers will follow on July 15, 2022.

4. The assignat seen here (for 5 livres) will be mailed at no expense to the winner, wherever they may live!

Bon courage!

Julia Douthwaite Viglione

Editor, A Revolution in Fiction blog, estab. 2009

Author, The Frankenstein of 1790 and Other Lost Chapters from Revolutionary France (UChicago 2012)

Chief editor, Teaching Representations of the French Revolution (MLA 2019)

Emerita professor of French, University of Notre Dame

A WINNER has emerged! Dr M M Gilchrist of Hull, UK, scored 100% on this year’s Bastille Day Quiz. Congratulations, Dr. Gilchrist! Here are the correct answers:


1. d. Cicero. From the Latin cicer, ciceris (chickpea, or lentil), this surname was possibly a metonymic occupational name for someone who grew or sold peas. It is perhaps an irony of fate that the Roman thinker Marcus Tullius Cicero (106BC – 43 BC) inspired the Jacobins, as he is best known now as one who tried to uphold the idealistic “Greek” principles of duty and self-discipline under the corrupt governments and political crises that led to the establishment of the Roman Empire.

2. c. elm. This information is recounted by fictional character and tree expert, Dr. Patricia Westerford, in Richard Powers’s magnificent novel, The Overstory. The character is said to be inspired by the real-life Canadian scientist, Dr. Suzanne Simard. This is probably related to The Liberty Tree (1646–1775): a famous elm tree that stood in Boston, Massachusetts near Boston Common, in the years before the American Revolution. In 1765, colonists in Boston staged the first act of defiance against the British government at the tree. The tree became a rallying point for the growing resistance to the rule of Britain over the American colonies, before it was chopped down by Loyalists in August 1775.

3. a. Jacques Necker (1732-1804).  His daughter Germaine became famous as Madame de Staël, author of Delphine, Corinne, and De l’Allemagne, among other books that marked the beginning of Romanticism.

4. c. Ignisia is of our own invention. For more on the calendar’s conception and fate, see Sanja Perovic’s excellent book, The Calendar in Revolutionary France (Cambridge, 2012).

5. b. Toussaint Louverture is that great man; he is also known as François-Dominique Toussaint Louverture, Toussaint Bréda, Toussaint-Louverture, and Toussaint L’ouverture. His heroic and ill-fated exploits to help the Haitian people provided fertile ground for fiction writers: an amazing variety of stories about him exist, and they are now available for the first time to English speakers in Haitian Revolutionary Fictions: An Anthology, edited by Marlene L. Daut, Grégory Pierrot, and Marion C. Rohrleitner. (With thanks to Professor Daut!)

6. a. The Montagnards. For details about the opposing agendas of the Montagnards and the Girondistes, and Chénier’s political entanglements, I am indebted to the introduction in Alan Heffez’s new translation of Chénier’s last poetry, “Unfinished Business: The ‘Terror’.” With thanks to the author.

7. c. Billy Budd, Sailor (pub. posthumously 1924). “The hardheaded Dundee owner was a staunch admirer of Thomas Paine, whose book in rejoinder to Burke’s arraignment of the French Revolution had then been published for some time and gone everywhere.” (Billy Budd and Other Stories, Penguin edition, p. 297).

8. b. Mr. Ramsey. This tyrannical yet tender-hearted character was apparently modeled after Woolf’s own father, Leslie Stephen. In a typical passage, we read: “It was true; he was for the most part happy; he had his wife; he had his children; he had promised in six weeks’ time to talk ‘some nonsense’ to the young men of Cardiff about Locke, Hume, Berkeley, and the causes of the French Revolution. But this and the pleasure in it … all had to be deprecated and concealed under the phrase ‘talking nonsense’… it was a disguise.” (Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse, p. 32-3, Wordsworth Classics.)

9. c. Jean-Paul Marat. In the film, the wild-eyed journalist is played by Timothée Chalamet in a pose reminiscent of Jean-Paul David’s painting, Death of Marat

10. a. The ship’s name is The Robespierre.  The mini-series was based on the novel by Emily St. John Mandel.  It is not evident if the author realized the irony of offering safe haven on board a ship named after Robespierre.

See you next year for more revolutionary fun!


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