From Prairial to Pop Culture. Day Fourteen. Did class consciousness exist before 1789? Yes, thanks to a woman writer

Sieyes Qu'est_ce_que_le_Tiers_Etat

In 1789, Abbé Emmanuel Sieyès became famous for articulating the essential problem plaguing the so-called “Third Estate” in 1789, that is, their lack of a political identity. Since the Third Estate included 98% of the population, that is, everybody who was neither a member of the Catholic clergy or the Nobility, this was a significant problem and Sieyès’s pamphlet made a powerful statement.
In his pamphlet, Sieyès coined the slogan: “Qu’est-ce que le tiers état? Tout. Qu’a-t-il été jusqu’à présent dans l’ordre politique? Rien. Que demande-t-il? A y devenir quelque chose.” [What is the Third Estate? Everything. What has it been in the political order up to now? Nothing. What does it want? To become something.]
An earlier writer articulated a similar anxiety in her book, published well before 1789, where she put the following words into the mouth of an intelligent heroine who suddenly realizes her social nullity:
“Je n’ai ni or, ni terres, ni industrie, je fais nécessairement partie des citoyens de cette ville. Ô ciel! dans quelle classe dois-je me ranger?”
I have neither gold, nor land, nor skill, [yet] I am necessarily a citizen of this town. Oh Heavens! What class do I belong to?
Some critics have seen this passage as proof that a sense of class consciousness existed before the Revolution, even in the heyday of Old Regime France. Others have interpreted the author as working in a proto-socialist mode that prefigures 19th-century theorists such as Karl Marx and Charles Fourier. After a long period of obscurity, this novelist is now considered a major figure in French literary history. What is the name of that prescient writer and the title of her novel?

1. Marie-Madeleine Pioche de la Vergne, comtesse de Lafayette, La Princesse de Clèves (1678)
2. Marie-Jeanne Riccoboni, Lettres de Mistriss Fanni Butlerd (1757)
3. Françoise de Graffigny, Lettres d’une Péruvienne (1747)
4. Madeleine de Scudéry, Clélie (1654-61)

From Prairial to Pop Culture. Day Seven. Did you hear about Robespierre’s terrible bee stings?

Reconstructed face of robespierre acc to Philippe Froesch

An aura of mystery surrounds Robespierre’s actions in late June — July 1794. One explanation is found in an odd little story about Robespierre befriending two poor orphans in the country, called Robespierre et les deux orphelins, ou Histoire secrète des derniers jours de Robespierre (London, 1794). It appears that late one night in June 1794, Robespierre fell asleep under a tree while stumbling home from a drunken Jacobin dinner. When he awoke, he saw a little boy determined trying to catch a swarm of bees that had lost their queen.  What happens next?

  1. Robespierre sneakily catches the queen in a box, the swarm realizes it, and they sting him within an inch of his life.
  2. After the little boys and their elderly mentor nurse Robespierre back to health, he is ashamed of his past deeds (including killing their father), and so he vows to restore the monarchy and the Catholic church for them upon his return to Paris.
  3. Robespierre falls into a delirium from all the bee stings and starts naming names of the guilty Jacobins who’ve been running France into the ground.
  4. All of the above.

From Prairial to Pop Culture: The French Revolution in 2015. Day One, the political meaning of Prairial

Hello readers,

Following on last summer’s fabulous “Thermidor Fun facts,” this summer we are featuring a series called “From Prairial to Pop Culture: The French Revolution in 2015.” It will run during the month of Prairial (beginning now) to July 14, 2015.

If you would like to contribute a fun fact on the French Revolution, please write to jdouthwa@nd.edu. All contributors naturally receive a by-line on the blog.

Day One

Q:  What does Prairial mean, as a symbolic date akin to Thermidor (Robespierre’s death) and Brumaire (Napoleon’s coup d’état)?

  1. an uprising of peasants from the meadows of the Jura who marched into Paris leading their cows, in May 1795
  2. an allegory of refreshment, which became a refreshing salad made of “rocky mountain oysters” and rocket, much appreciated during the Directoire (1795-99)
  3. a popular revolt in Paris on May 20, 1795 against the policies of the Thermidorian Convention; widely considered the last popular revolt of the French Revolution begun in 1789
  4. Napoleon’s unstoppable rise to power, as depicted in a dazzling shade of spring green, by Girodet in 1796

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)

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

Crime or revolution?

While browsing through a Paris used book store in October, I stumbled upon an odd little reference book called Le Crime et la criminologie.  This quirky taxonomy of crimes is extremely well documented, which allows readers to appraise the state of European social science research circa 1960.  Particularly curious for me were articles on “astuce,” victimology, and the mindboggling variety of swindling schemes. Also intriguing is the article “Economic factor” and this  pithy definition of revolution:

“Prepared in advance, organized as well as possible, and executed by the mass of working people in an open and audacious manner, it is called Revolution; but if it is carried out by one or some individuals in haste, with fear and in the dark of night or benefiting from chance circumstances; it is called crime.”

I think this is food for thought, especially given recent efforts–in Spain and echoed in the USA–to project Lenin as a role model for modern youth.  https://www.jacobinmag.com/2014/12/pablo-iglesias-podemos-left-speech/ *

Just as a revolt does not a revolution make; the slogan “bread and peace” is more ominous than some folks may recall.
____________________________________________________________________________________

“Préparée à l’avance, organisée autant que possible, et exécuté par toute la masse ouvrière d’une façon ouverte et audacieuse, elle s’appelle Révolution; mais exécuté par un ou quelques individus de façon hâtive, avec peur et sous l’ombre de la nuit ou des circonstances propices: elle s’appelle crime.”   Yamarellos et G. Kellens, Le Crime et la criminologie, 2 vols. (Verviers, Belgium: Marabout Université, 1970), 177.

*Thanks to Dave Andress for bringing the Jacobin article to our attention.  As he notes: “Is it conceivable he thinks Lenin won an election, as opposed to closing down the 1918 Constituent Assembly by force on the first day it met?”

Christmas in Kyiv, by Alexandra Fedynsky

Tires in Kyiv summer 2014

EuromaidanThis article, about recent events in Ukraine, is one in a series by a young friend and student of French at Notre Dame, Alexa Fedynsky

I first visited Maidan in December 2012, just in time for New Year’s Eve. Snow covered everything. My brother and I struggled against the cold each time we ventured outside. Despite the bone-chilling weather, people were preparing for the upcoming holidays as they do year after year. We had to push our way through the throngs of people on the metro, bicker with shop owners for various goods, and wait in line with fellow tourists to visit monuments. On one of our excursions, we saw an advertisement for a Maidan concert to ring in the New Year, which was to feature many famous Ukrainian bands, most notably the singer Ruslana. We arrived just in time to hear her sing, and after her show she counted down from ten kicking off the New Year. At the stroke of midnight I was surprised to see, after a brief moment of hugging and cheering, everyone standing straight and singing the national anthem of Ukraine. Despite the social atmosphere of the evening, people displayed the pride they had for their country, forgetting the festivities for a moment. The concert then proceeded as normal: more rock songs, dancing, and champagne drinking. The next day I flew back to America feeling the pride of Ukraine. Staring out the window onto the green Ukrainian countryside, I knew I wanted to go back.
One year later, the Ukrainian government was getting ready for Christmas again. Government employees began to set up the giant Christmas tree in the middle of Maidan, along with tinsel and ornaments. However this year’s “celebration” was to differ greatly. By setting up this tree, the government strove to disperse the massive crowd which had gathered to protest against President Yanukovych and his failure to sign a trade agreement with the European Union. Instead of government workers setting up holiday decorations, protesters took charge, throwing flags and banners across the scaffolding. Around this time began the whispers of nightly attacks by the Berkut, the special police force of Ukraine. In response, people set up barricades around Maidan and Khreshchatyk, using tinsel and decorations as part of the foundation. These barricades withheld most attacks, even withstanding the bloody weekend of February 21, where the Berkut murdered over 100 protesters. After this bloodshed, the president fled, and Euromaidan seemed to be a success. In a symbolic, as well as fearful gesture, the tents and barricades stood until well past the inauguration of the new president–a remembrance not only of the lives lost but also the common struggle the Ukrainian people have shared for centuries.
I arrive this summer, with barricades all around. The smell of ash engulfs people walking up the stairs from the metro. Pedestrians watch where they step, the sidewalk missing large sections of cobblestone. During the revolution, protesters had picked up the stones to throw at the Berkut. The giant Christmas tree scaffolding, strewn with flags and banners of support, imposingly stands in the center of Maidan, surrounded by large green army tents. These tents maze through the entire Maidan, as well as a good portion of Khreshchatyk, the stakes hammered into the concrete of the street. Narrow pathways wind around the tents, mostly empty except for the occasional “protester.” The people there now represent various demographics, from the stranded Eastern Ukrainian unable to return home, to the overly-emphatic Western Ukrainian student, to those who leech off the self-sufficient city. Few cars drive down the once busy street, the tents taking up almost all of the road. Despite all of this, I still sit for a nice lunch right on Maidan–ironically a Crimean restaurant–where service is completely normal only a few months after the tragic events of both Maidan and the Crimean takeover. Tourist sites remain open, allowing me to see the inside of the grand St. Sophia for the first time. In the midst of important events, be this New Years celebrations or a life-changing revolution, daily life continues. In spite of this tragic event the hope of freedom and happiness remains, clear in the conversations and interactions among people. And one day soon, the crowds around Maidan will gather, singing the national anthem of Ukraine, both as a sign of unity and once again, celebration.
Christmas in Kyiv Summer 2014

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