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Sarah Richmond

I am so grateful to Matthew Eshleman and Adrian van den Hoven for their generous, insightful comments. Translating can be a lonely activity, especially when the text is as lengthy as BN. At the end of hours of involvement with Sartre's French – perched, as it were, on the edge of his mind – I often felt in need of other, auxiliary minds to re-centre me, to save me from toppling over completely into Sartre's consciousness and drowning. In these moments, I usually turned to dictionaries and other internet resources to bolster my critical distance; more rarely, I would email fellow translators or philosophers for help. But I have had very little of the attentive, fine-grained dialogue offered here, and I have immensely enjoyed, and benefited from, this exchange. Hopefully, SSI readers will also find it of interest.

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Adrian van den Hoven

Abstract

Sarah Richmond's translation makes an important contribution to Sartrean scholarship. L'Etre et le néant was first translated by Hazel Barnes in 1956 but it contained various errors. Richmond also had access to the internet and to Sartre's French and German sources. Her edition also contains an Introduction and a ‘Notes on the translation’ section.

Sartre published his work in 1943 and, unable to access all the works he cited, he often did so from memory. He also adopted certain translators’ neologisms: for example, Corbin's translation of Heidegger's Qu'est-ce que la métaphysique? , and when he quoted Nietzsche, he used two different translations, and he quotes Spinoza using a text by Hegel. He quotes a line from the playwright Beaumarchais without clarifying the context.

Sarah Richmond deals with many of these problems and also notes that the French gender system can be problematic. Also, Sartre's neologisms rendered finding English equivalents difficult. This is an excellent translation.

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Sociality, Seriousness, and Cynicism

A Response to Ronald Santoni on Bad Faith

Jonathan Webber

Abstract

This article is a clarification and development of my interpretation of Sartre's theory of bad faith in response to Ronald Santoni's sophisticated critique, published in this issue. It begins by clarifying Sartre's conception of a project and explaining his claim that one project is fundamental, thereby elucidating the idea that bad faith is a fundamental project. This forms the groundwork of my responses to Santoni's critique of my interpretation, which comprises four arguments: Sartre does not consider us to be ontologically and congenitally disposed to bad faith; Santoni is right that social pressure cannot explain the prevalence of bad faith, but this is a problem with Sartre's theory rather than a problem for my interpretation of it; Sartre's conception of seriousness is merely an optional strategy of bad faith; and Sartre is right to deny that bad faith is an inherently cynical project.

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Think Global, Fight Local

Recontextualizing the French Army in Algeria, 1954–1962

Terrence G. Peterson

Abstract

For many within the French military, the war over Algeria's independence that raged from 1954 to 1962 appeared global: not an isolated conflict, but one front in a broader subversive war waged by Communist revolutionaries. As historians have long noted, this perspective was inaccurate. For that reason, the social and cultural contexts that defined military practice during the early years of the conflict have not been fully explored. This article argues, however, that these global narratives mattered, and can help historians to trace both how global events shaped military thinking about Algeria and how the war helped forge more concrete transnational connections. As they honed their operational doctrines in Algeria, French military leaders looked abroad: not only to understand the war in Algeria, but to promote their own practices as a universal response to the social upheavals of the era.

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Aaron Freundschuh, Jonah D. Levy, Patricia Lorcin, Alexis Spire, Steven Zdatny, Caroline Ford, Minayo Nasiali, George Ross, William Poulin-Deltour, and Kathryn Kleppinger

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Colette française (et fille de zouave)

Colette and the French Singularity

Kathleen Antonioli

Abstract

This article argues that French novelist Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette occupies a central position in the canon of French women's writing, and that from this position her reception was deeply influential in the development of the myth of French singularity. After World War I, a style of femininity associated with Colette (natural, instinctive, antirational) became more largely synonymous with good French women's writing, and writers who did not correspond to the “genre Colette” were excluded from narratives of the history of French women's writing. Characteristics associated with Colette's writing did not shift drastically before and after the war, but, in the wake of the Great War, these characteristics were nationalized and became French.

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Whitney Walton

Abstract

This article examines Arvède Barine's extensive and popular published output from the 1880s to 1908, along with an extraordinary cache of letters addressed to Barine and held in the Manuscript Department of the National Library of France. It asserts that in the process of criticizing contemporary feminist activists and celebrating the achievements of women, especially French women, in history, she constructed the historical and cultural distinctiveness of French women as an ideal blend of femininity, accomplishment, and independence. This notion of the French singularity, indeed the superiority of French women, resolved the contradiction between her condemnation of feminism as a transformation of gender relations and her support for causes and reforms that enabled women to lead intellectually and emotionally fulfilling lives. Barine's work offers another example of the varied ways that women in Third Republic France engaged with public debates about women and gender.

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The Gallic Singularity

The Medieval and Early Modern Origins

Tracy Adams

Abstract

The popular narrative that the French relationship between the sexes is more emotionally rewarding than its American counterpart has entered into scholarly discourse over the past decades. Promoted by several well-known French feminist scholars, the narrative locates the particularity of the French relationship in its paradoxical structure: women are both equal and not equal to men. Sexual difference lies in the particular, which is subordinate to the universal value of equality. The narrative was most recently revived in the anti-#MeToo manifesto published in Le Monde in January 2018. This article surveys the narrative's history, beginning with French feudal law and tracing it through some of its later iterations to highlight how it has long offered French women a way of performing femininity while exercising power. The emotional investment in this narrative explains why it continues to be accepted among at least some French intellectuals, whereas it is generally rejected by American feminists.

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Christine Adams

Abstract

The relationship of the French king and royal mistress, complementary but unequal, embodied the Gallic singularity; the royal mistress exercised a civilizing manner and the soft power of women on the king's behalf. However, both her contemporaries and nineteenth- and early twentieth-century historians were uncomfortable with the mistress's political power. Furthermore, paradoxical attitudes about French womanhood have led to analyses of her role that are often contradictory. Royal mistresses have simultaneously been celebrated for their civilizing effect in the realm of culture, chided for their frivolous expenditures on clothing and jewelry, and excoriated for their dangerous meddling in politics. Their increasing visibility in the political realm by the eighteenth century led many to blame Louis XV's mistresses—along with Queen Marie-Antoinette, who exercised a similar influence over her husband, Louis XVI—for the degradation and eventual fall of the monarchy. This article reexamines the historiography of the royal mistress.

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Outrageous Flirtation, Repressed Flirtation, and the Gallic Singularity

Alexis de Tocqueville's Comparative Views on Women and Marriage in France and the United States

Jean Elisabeth Pedersen

Abstract

This article offers a new way of understanding Alexis de Tocqueville's complex position as a French observer who studied the United States, an ambivalent aristocratic cultural commentator who put his hopes for the future in democratic society, and a paradoxical figure in the history of debates over the so-called “Gallic singularity” who ultimately argued that the new American sex/gender system could provide a better model for women in a democracy than the traditional French one. The introduction and first section highlight Tocqueville's changing attitudes toward what he saw as the key contrasts between European marriages and American marriages by comparing his initial letters home from the United States with his eventual work in Democracy in America. The second section compares his views of French and American women with those of his contemporaries Germaine de Staël and Gustave de Beaumont. The third section explains his changing views by establishing the connections between his comparative arguments about women and marriage and his comparative arguments about democracy itself.