"A World of Their Own"

Searching for Popular Culture in the French Countryside

in French Politics, Culture & Society
Restricted access

This article revisits the role that the concept of popular culture has played in Eugen Weber's Peasants Into Frenchmen and in the historiography of France. It delineates the contours of this field of study in the 1970s then traces its evolution, focusing on the nineteenth century. It also assesses Weber's contribution to this body of scholarship and considers future directions of research—and how his book may still prove helpful. The article proposes that, in terms of conceptualization, epistemological stance, and rhetorical voice, Peasants Into Frenchmen adopts two perspectives on popular culture, perspectives that are sometimes compatible but typically at odds. The first revolves around the confident discovery of a fixed traditional civilization in the French countryside; the second is a more conjectural search for fluctuating cultural processes. While commentators have focused on the first, the second foreshadowed later developments in the field and has more to offer us today.