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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.

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Representations of Women in the French Imaginary

Historicizing the Gallic Singularity

Jean Elisabeth Pedersen

Abstract

This article, the introduction to the special issue “Representations of Women in the French Imaginary: Historicizing the Gallic Singularity,” frames the work of contributors Tracy Adams, Christine Adams, Jean Elisabeth Pedersen, Whitney Walton, and Kathleen Antonioli by analyzing two especially important contemporary debates about French sexual politics, one popular and one academic: (1) the international controversy over Catherine Deneuve's decision to sign a French manifesto against the American #MeToo movement in Le Monde; and (2) the mixed French and American response to the work of Mona Ozouf in Les mots des femmes: Essai sur la singularité française. The five articles in the special issue itself bring new breadth and depth to the study of these and related debates by exploring a range of different French representations of women in a series of key texts, topics, and historical episodes from the rise of the Middle Ages to the aftermath of World War I.

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Mark Ingram

Cultural anthropology in France continues to bear the influence of a colonial-era distinction between “modern” societies with a high degree of social differentiation (and marked by rapid social change) and ostensibly socially homogeneous and change-resistant “traditional” ones. The history of key institutions (museums and research institutes) bears witness to this, as does recent scholarship centered on “the contemporary” that reworks earlier models and concepts and applies them to a world increasingly marked by transnational circulation and globalization. Anthropology at the Crossroads describes the evolution of a national tradition of scholarship, changes to its institutional status, and the models, concepts, and critical perspectives of anthropologists currently revisiting and reworking the foundations of the discipline in France.

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Naomi J. Andrews, Simon Jackson, Jessica Wardhaugh, Shannon Fogg, Jessica Lynne Pearson, Elizabeth Campbell, Laura Levine Frader, Joshua Cole, Elizabeth A. Foster, and Owen White

Silyane Larcher, L’Autre Citoyen: L’idéal républicain et les Antilles après l’esclavage (Paris: Armand Colin, 2014).

Elizabeth Heath, Wine, Sugar, and the Making of Modern France: Global Economic Crisis and the Racialization of French Citizenship, 1870–1910 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014).

Rebecca Scales, Radio and the Politics of Sound in Interwar France, 1921–1939 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016).

Claire Zalc, Dénaturalisés: Les retraits de nationalité sous Vichy (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 2016).

Bertram M. Gordon, War Tourism: Second World War France from Defeat and Occupation to the Creation of Heritage (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2018).

Shannon L. Fogg, Stealing Home: Looting, Restitution, and Reconstructing Jewish Lives in France, 1942–1947 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017).

Sarah Fishman, From Vichy to the Sexual Revolution: Gender and Family Life in Postwar France (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017).

Frederick Cooper, Citizenship between Empire and Nation: Remaking France and French Africa, 1945–1960 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014).

Jessica Lynne Pearson, The Colonial Politics of Global Health: France and the United Nations in Postwar Africa (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2018).

Darcie Fontaine, Decolonizing Christianity: Religion and the End of Empire in France and Algeria (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2016).

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Thomas Meagher and Farhang Erfani

A. Shahid Stover, Being and Insurrection: Existential Liberation Critique, Sketches and Ruptures (New York: Cannae Press, 2019), 266 pp., $20, ISBN: 9781733551007 (paperback)

Yoav Di-Capua, No Exit: Arab Existentialism, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Decolonization (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018), 336 pp., $35, ISBN: 9780226503509 (paperback)

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Contemporary “Structures” of Racism

A Sartrean Contribution to Resisting Racial Injustice

Justin I. Fugo

Abstract

This paper develops an account of racism as rooted in social structural processes. Using Sartre, I attempt to give a general analysis of what I refer to as the “structures” of our social world, namely the practico-inert, serial collectives, and social groups. I then apply this analysis to expose and elucidate “racist structures,” specifically those that are oftentimes assumed to be ‘race neutral’. By highlighting structures of racial oppression and domination, I aim to justify: 1) the imperative of creating conditions free from oppression and domination, over the adherence to ‘ideal’ principles which perpetuate racial injustice; 2) the shared responsibility we have collectively to resist and transform social structural processes that continue to produce racial injustice.

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John Ireland and Constance Mui

We are thrilled, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of Sartre Studies International, to publish for the first time in English (thanks to Dennis Gilbert's initiative and perseverance) two interviews on theater given by Sartre to Russia's oldest continually running theater journal, Teatr, whose first issues date from the 1930s. Six years apart, these two interviews give us the flavor of Sartre addressing a Soviet audience, in early 1956, just before Russian tanks rolled into Hungary and then again in early 1962, as France negotiated its exit out of the disastrous Algerian War. While these interviews intersect at times with remarks made by Sartre in interviews and lectures during the same period in France (the need for theater to become a truly popular forum, the importance of Brecht as a model of politically engaged theater, etc.), the tone of the two interviews (the first in particular) is different, as Sartre seeks to connect with a socialist audience. These interviews also break new ground. Discussing contemporary playwrights, Sartre demonstrates, for example, his familiarity with Kateb Yacine and Algerian theater. More unexpectedly, addressing Russian readers, Sartre offers a much more positive assessment of Jean Vilar's Théâtre National Populaire than he ever formulated in France. In short, beyond their content, these interviews help us appreciate even more the importance of the situation shaping Sartre's pronouncements at any given moment.

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P. Sven Arvidson

Abstract

According to philosopher Paul Woodruff, reverent awe is a feeling of being limited or dwarfed by something larger than the human, usually accompanied by feelings of respect for fellow human beings. Drawing from Jean-Paul Sartre's early philosophy, this article responds positively to the title question, showing how reverent awe is in bad faith yet is similar to anguish, and unique with respect to both. Especially remarkable in reverent awe is the feeling of connectedness to humankind. In section two, building on this section one framework of how Sartrean consciousness can be reverent, the article explores how being-in-itself (l'être-en-soi) can be an object of reverent awe.