In hommage to La Commune de Paris: March 18

_commune_paris_1871_sn635

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)

Essays sought on Ibero-American Echoes of the French Revolution

mla-logo-thumb

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.

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

On money, assignats, Benjamin … and a Valentine’s day suggestion

Assignat-20--LivresAssignat-50

I’ve started thinking and reading a lot about economics in the 1700s, and the meaning of money, credit, work, in the eighteenth century and revolutionary era.  A friend in South Bend, Jeff Schneider, is actually a member of the Bank Note Society and has been generously giving me assignats for a few years now, knowing that I show them around in my classes.  Students love seeing this old money.. They are so interesting!  (And apparently not terribly expensive, if you are looking for a Valentine’s gift for your favorite revolutionary.)

For the aficionados of assignats, here is a link Jeff S. passed along; it is extremely detailed and impressive,   http://assignat.fr/

Now, if I could just get my hands on some billets de banque from the Law Scheme…

Work in progress:  “Did the ‘Ill Wind’ Blow No Good?  The Law Scheme in French Economics, Linterature, and Art, 1721-31,” for the special no. of L’Esprit créateur issue on “Paris’s Imagined Capital: Early Capitalism and Modernity in France (17th-19th centuries).”  Thinking about money changes everything.  Hmmm.

Here is a less-quoted epigram by Walter Benjamin:

“A descriptive analysis of bank notes is needed.  The unlimited satirical force of such a book would be equaled only by its objectivity.  For nowhere more naively than in these documents does capitalism display itself in solemn earnest.”

Benjamin, “Tax Advice”

(Thanks to Marc Shell’s fabulous book Art and Money, for that must-quote.)

More to come!  Anybody else out there inspired by Thomas Piketty and the Hoffman, Postel-Vinay, Rosenthal team?–Capital in the 21st Century and Priceless Markets are well worth the sometime technical language for the parts about French literature, art, culture.  Piketty does a better job on César Birotteau.   But Priceless Markets was so surprising to read; I feel like I learned a ton from watching the way they think.  Their attitude on the Revolution was very unlike most of what I’ve read to date!

More American responses to French problems and French response to Fox “No Go Zones”

Screen-Shot-2015-01-20-at-10.58.17-AM French comedians dress up as Fox newsSince we’re on the topic of French-American misunderstanding, I thought I’d send along another interesting article on the topic of freedom of speech and the concept of laïcité, by Alexander Stille, from The New Yorker, here.

And if you have not yet heard about the Fox News fiasco about the so-called “No Go zones,” you must watch this satire by Le Petit Journal!  http://www.mediaite.com/tv/french-comedians-dress-up-as-fox-news-journalists-enter-paris-no-go-zones/

Secular Values to the Rescue

In the wake of the horrible tragedy of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, we have been waiting with baited breath to see which way the French government was going to try to deal with religious extremism.  Would they opt for a free-floating multiculturalism and slide ever closer to the American model where religious leaders hold a dangerous sway over politics?  Or would they reassert the specificity of what it means to be French, and protect their citizens with a newly invigorated republicanism?  As a French teacher in the USA, I frequently encounter students who, in the arrogance of their ignorance, feel entitled to express indignation about the laws banning head scarves and other public signs of religious belief in the public sphere in France, and decry the “inflexibility” of the French.  “They should be more like us,” students say.  Each time I hear this, I wince, because it means that we have not done our job well enough.  Those who believe the French lack “flexibility” have never learned what the French Republic really stands for.  They ignore how long and hard people had to work and struggle and fight, from 1789 to 1905, until France achieved a definitive break between the Catholic Church (or any church) and the State.  They are oblivious to what it means to live in a State where the public sphere is a protected place, where believers and non-believers are equally free from coercion.  So it is with joy that I read the article in the New York Times today entitled, “Paris Announces Plan to Promote Secular Values,” which I invite you to read here.

For those who may not understand why secular values are so crucial to the French, you need to keep studying.  As with many facets of French culture, the origins lie in the past, in this case, the struggles of the French Revolution.

Vive la laïcité!

Will 2015 be the new 1789?

2015-trends-1728x800_c

Happy New Year, readers!  The most interesting new trend afoot in French politics for 2015 is the increasing prominence of the Association for a Constituent Assembly.  Founded in 2004, this group’s impact is now being felt on policy debates across the Hexagon.  The APUC proposes a peaceful, time-honored means to bring the government of the French Republic back in line with the its founding principles.  Although APUC leaders include a former deputy of the National Assembly, writers for the high-profile Le Monde diplomatique, and academics employed by France’s elite universities, its members hail from all walks of life.  Constitutional “circles” have formed in 19 French cities and their numbers are steadily growing.  Will they succeed in creating enough momentum to prompt a national election?  In order to help Anglophone readers understand the gravity of the French situation, and the relevance this group’s efforts to the inspiring principles of 1789, we’re posting below the English translation of the Association’s call to action.  Click here for the French original, on the APUC website.  This may be a rare chance for us to witness deliberative democracy in action!

Association for a New French Constituent Assembly

This is a call for a grassroots vote of no confidence in our governing institutions. This is a call for the creation of new Constituent Assembly (originally established 1789-1791, but also 1848, 1871-1875, 1945, and 1946).

Fellow citizens of France,

The time has come to make known to the professional politicians that they cannot legitimately represent the people’s interests anymore.

During the last few years, the leaders of France have adopted a technocratic mode of governing that has made matters less and less transparent to those who do not walk the halls of power. They have abandoned the country’s political and financial sovereignty, claiming that the welfare state cannot be sustained, given the need to compete in world markets.  Instead of heeding the people’s legitimate demand for representation and justice, they have thrown their efforts behind an anti-democratic effort to build up Europe. The technocrats currently leading the “political class” are overlooking massive sectors of the population and dismissing calls for greater representation and democracy.

Furthermore, the executive branch has evolved into an autocracy led by a president whose decisions are dictated solely by his own views.  Forgetting his campaign promises, the president has led with an antidemocratic, antisocial iron hand.

The government’s indifference to popular opinion has reached the breaking point.  Who can forget the government’s reaction to the French vote of NO against the European Constitution in 2005?  Despite a resounding majority of negative votes, the referendum’s result was ignored. Organizers of the vote willfully overlooked article 3 of the constitution, which stipulates that “national sovereignty belongs to the people.”

Over the last ten years, the founders of the Association for a New French Constituent Assembly (Association pour une Constituante) have striven to put policy decisions back in the hands of the electorate.  Instead of waiting for the system to fix itself, or watching in vain for the lame-duck Parliament to regain its role in the balance of powers, we call for a grassroots movement to demand that the people’s voice be heard.

Our goal is the creation of a new Constituent Assembly: a corps of elected deputies entrusted with the creation of a new Constitution that would reform governmental institutions to serve the people of France.  We encourage citizens across the country to create local groups of deliberative democracy, in the hopes of organizing a national vote on a new Constituent Assembly.

Citizens, pass along this call to action!  Organize!  To reform the current institutions and redefine the rules governing the political system, we must demand the election of a new Constituent Assembly!

Contact: The Association pour une Constituante:  www.pouruneconstituante.fr

13 rue du Pré Saint Gervais, 75019 Paris

pouruneconstituante@yahoo.fr

Bonnet1 2mo pour Assoc pour une Constituante

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,589 other followers