Enlightenment

From catechisms to Voltaire: Religious tradition and change in eighteenth-century novels

Alicia C. Montoya explores how eighteenth-century readers might have moved from catechisms to Voltaire in her chapter of Les Lumières catholiques et le roman français (edited by Isabelle Tremblay), the latest volume to be published in the Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment series.


Scholars of the Enlightenment have tended – like intellectual historians generally – to stress the movement’s newness, rather than its continuities with the past. Yet these continuities are many, and none are so little explored, perhaps (pace Carl Becker’s Heavenly City of the Eighteenth-Century Philosophers), as religious continuities, with religion conceived not in theological terms, but as an everyday praxis of rituals, prayers, and religious reading.

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Les Lumières catholiques et le roman français edited by Isabelle Tremblay is the January 2019 volume of the Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment series

No doubt some of the problem lies in essentialist concepts of ‘religious tradition’. In fact, traditions change over time, in response to specific historical configurations. One of the insights of Philippe Martin’s too-little-noticed Une religion des livres (1640 – 1850) is that popular devotional titles, such as catechisms and prayer books, were continually adapted and rewritten throughout the eighteenth century, both to suit the needs of successive generations and local dioceses.[1] In terms of print runs, these remained the best-selling titles of the period, right until the end of the century. On the eve of the French revolution, from 1777 to 1789, Jacques Coret’s Ange conducteur (1681) enjoyed a print run of 125,400 copies.[2] In the same years, in provincial cities alone, over 27,000 copies were printed of abbé Fleury’s Catéchisme historique (1683).[3] But how did these titles relate to the better-known literary productions of the Enlightenment? Were they read by different groups of readers, or was there some overlap? And if there was overlap, which titles shared shelf space with which other titles? Would a catechism sit comfortably on a nightstand next to Voltaire’s latest polemic? And if not, how did readers actually move from reading a religious catechism to reading a work by Voltaire?

One way to explore this question is to focus on private libraries and their holdings, as we do in a bibliometric project that will run until 2021, MEDIATE (Middlebrow Enlightenment: Disseminating Ideas, Authors, and Texts in Europe, 1665 – 1830). By studying both collocations – which titles are most often found in libraries next to one another – as well as specific title frequencies, this project hopes to shed light on titles that might have served as intellectual bridges between a traditional, religious worldview, and the new ideas associated with the Enlightenment.

But bibliometrics can only take us so far, and to really understand the impact of books on intellectual change, we need to study their contents. So another way to find out how readers might have moved from catechisms to Voltaire is to look more closely at the formal and discursive structures of these works. Catechisms are defined formally, for example, by their question-answer format. Yet religious books were not the only ones to use this structure. The catechism genre is referenced in publications ranging from Fleury’s Catéchisme to Voltaire’s Catéchisme de l’honnête homme (1764), or the revolutionary Catéchisme historique par une bonne citoyenne (c. 1790). A philosophe’s or a revolutionary’s use of the catechism format payed tribute to Christian tradition, even while explicitly distancing itself from it. At what point, then, did the religious reference no longer impact the reception of these texts, or ‘disappear’, to be replaced with ideas clearly aligned with the new?

Among the works that most insistently drew on religious formats were religiously-inspired pedagogical texts. Often female-authored, these titles re-used thematic elements and discursive structures associated with a Catholic worldview, joining them to Enlightenment pedagogical ideals. Texts such as Marie Leprince de Beaumont’s Education complète (1753), for example, used the catechism’s question-answer format to teach its young readers the history of the world, from the biblical Flood to the present day. In her best-selling Magasin des enfants (1756), to inculcate in her readers the elements of history, geography, and the natural sciences, Beaumont used religious number symbolism, structuring her narrative into seven days of dialogue between seven fictional pupils, punctuated by twelve fairy tales underlining specific moral points. In the pupils’ allegorical names, the medieval system of the seven vices and virtues was still recognizable. At the end of the century, Marie-Françoise Loquet adopted the system of vices and virtues in her Voyage de Sophie et d’Eulalie au palais du vrai Bonheur (1781), detailing a succession of encounters between the protagonists and personifications of the vices and virtues, in a quest to reach the abodes of Divine Charity and True Happiness.

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Portrait of Madame de Genlis by
Adelaide Labille-Guiard (public domain, courtesy of LA County Museum of Art)

But other pedagogical authors like Stéphanie-Félicité de Genlis, while paying lip service to religious beliefs, de facto made little use of them. In her collection of tales Veillées du château (1782), Genlis foregrounded the ‘the order in which I needed to present [my ideas] to gradually enlighten the spirit and elevate the soul’. But the content of her tales was so deeply indebted to the new scientific ideas of her age that their religious dimension disappeared from view. In one of the volume’s tales, ‘Alphonse et Dalinde’, Genlis took the reader on a dizzying tour of the world, describing a series of natural and man-made wonders, ranging from earthquakes, meteorites, automata, Benjamin Franklin’s experiments with electricity, and much more. So amazing are all these wonders that the author forgets, finally, to point out the divine hand at work in them. The tale ends up reading as a eulogy of modern science and rationality, in a world that no longer requires divine intervention.

So what remained in the writings of both religiously-inspired pedagogical authors and philosophes, increasingly, were merely the formal and discursive structures of traditional religious genres, now emptied of their religious content. Bien étonnés de se trouver ensemble, the works of Madame de Genlis and of Voltaire do, in fact, surprisingly often find themselves close neighbours on the shelves of eighteenth-century readers, attesting to the conceptual bridge that pedagogical works such as Genlis’s provided between two worldviews that, at first sight, might appear difficult to reconcile.

– Alicia C. Montoya (Radboud University)

References

[1] Philippe Martin, Une religion des livres (1640 – 1850) (Paris, 2003).

[2] Simon Burrows, ‘Charmet and the book police: Clandestinity, illegality and popular reading in late Ancien Régime France’, French History and Civilization vol. 6 (2015), p. 34 – 55 (48).

[3] Julia Dominique, ‘Livres de classe et usages pédagogiques’, in Histoire de l’édition française, vol. 2: Le livre triumphant 1660 – 1830, éd. Henri-Jean Martin and Roger Chartier (Paris, 1990), p. 615 – 56 (629).


Les Lumières catholiques et le roman français is part of the Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment series, published in collaboration with the Voltaire Foundation, University of Oxford.


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Modern Languages

Frères Ennemis – In Conversation with William Cloonan

Frères Ennemis focuses on Franco-American tensions reflected in literature. Each chapter explores the evolution/devolution of the often fraught relations between the two nations, ranging from an initial French fear of American cultural dominance to the eventual realization that France could absorb this cultural invasion into its own traditions. We caught up with author William Cloonan to discuss this recent publication.

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Firstly, could you tell us a bit about Frères Ennemis and what drew you to focus your work in this area?

I have always been intrigued by the ways the Americans and French manage to get on one another’s nerves. Loyal allies in every major conflict since the American revolution, each nation seems nevertheless  gifted in creating annoyances for the other. Sometimes the differences are silly and sometimes serious. As I studied this bizarre phenomenon in literary texts I began to understand that the tensions were more political than personal and reflected the struggle of two great powers to achieve and maintain a preeminent position on the world stage.

The cover of your book features a particularly striking display of postwar French tensions. Where does the image come from, and what is its relevance to your book?

André Fougeron painted Atlantic Civilization (1953) to illustrate French leftist concerns about the growing influence and presence of the United States in France and Europe. The topics alluded to in the painting are serious, the German rearmament, racism, the execution of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg for spying, etc., but the figures seems caricatural, as if taken from a comic book. I felt this painting displayed both the serious and silly aspects of Franco-American relations which I wanted to discuss in my study.

In your study you introduce a concept called urban colonization. What do you mean by this expression, and how does it function thematically in Frères Ennemis?

Urban colonization is an expression I coined to describe the way a group of wealthy American expats essentially take over sections of Paris and transform them into an alternate universe which is neither France nor the United States. This is a world where the only French tolerated are either servants or nobles whose primary value is decorative. They enhance the grandeur of the Americans by being at their beck and call. While this tendency is most apparent in The Custom of the Country, it figures in every novel where the American expat community plays a role.

In your chapter on Jean Echenoz, you introduce the subject of the influx of American consumerism in postwar France. How is your treatment of this social phenomenon different from other analyses?

I argue that the disdain on the part of French intellectuals for American products, especially appliances (refrigerators, washing machines, vacuums, etc.) is greatly misplaced. As fond as the French have become of taking polls, it is a pity that grandmothers, daughters, sisters, –women in general—never seemed to have been consulted with regard to their sentiments concerning the influx of American household products. This discussion allows me also to challenge hoary concepts like “the American character,” and “France’s traditional way of life.” I argue these are largely empty phrases whose putative strength comes from their lacking any real substance.

You discuss the thematic importance of the English language in several chapters. Could you develop this idea and show how it plays an important role in several of the novels you discuss?

In my study, language is power. For the French to speak with Americans in both French and American novels, the language has to be English, and the predominant role of English reflects the growing political importance of the Unites States and the failing fortunes of France. The U.S. is the present and the future, while France is the past.

What are you working on next?

In the final chapter of my book, I point to an emerging trend in contemporary French fiction with regard to the United States. Due to a variety of social factors in both countries, among them 9/11, the election of Obama, racism in France and the rise of extreme right wing movements in the two countries, French novelists are developing a renewed curiosity about l’Amérique. Social criticism is still very much alive, but there are many fewer clichés about the States bandied about. I see this change primarily in three areas, the treatment of American movie stars and pop icons, the depiction of everyday life, and finally in the recent spate of parodies of American fiction by younger authors writing in French. This new direction in French literature will be the subject of my next book. Obviously, Trump’s effect on the image of Americans will be a crucial element in this study.

For more information on Frères Ennemis please visit our website.

 

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Modern Languages, News

Derek Schilling joins Contemporary French and Francophone Cultures Editorial Board

Liverpool University Press is delighted to announce that Professor Derek Schilling will be joining the Editorial Board of Contemporary French and Francophone Cultures.

Derek Schilling is Professor of French at Johns Hopkins University, where he teaches courses in modern and contemporary literature and film and directs the Centre pluridisciplinaire Louis Marin. He holds a co-ordinated doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania and the Université Paris 8. His chief research domain is geopoetics and geocriticism, specifically the relation of the literary and filmic record to the history of town planning and suburbanisation in France since 1900. In Mémoires du quotidien: les lieux de Perec (Presses universitaires du Septentrion, 2006) he explored Perec’s sociology of everydayness in relation to the rhetoric of the memory place and various site-bound observational practices. A forthcoming study, Banlieues de mémoire: géopoétique du roman de l’entre-deux-guerres, examines the emergence of the Paris suburb as a leading chronotope in novels published at the turn of the 1930s, by the likes of Simenon, Céline, Queneau, Dabit, and Berberova.

A scholar of documentary and fiction film, Schilling published in 2007 the comprehensive monograph Eric Rohmer in Manchester UP’s “French Film Directors” series. His most recent film-related publication, co-edited with Philippe Met, is Screening the Paris suburbs: from the silent era to the 1990s (Manchester UP 2018). Its fifteen contributors address the long history of representations of greater Paris, delving into tropes of escape, alienation, local struggle, criminality and stigmatisation. Other recent articles explore the work on René Vautier; place names in Georges Perec’s fiction; Louis Malle’s direct cinema of the 1970s; and plant closure documentaries and the memory of labour in the new millennium (“France’s Labour Lost,” forthcoming in France in Flux, eds. Ari Blatt and Edward Welch, Liverpool UP 2019). Schilling is a member of several editorial boards of journals in the United States including French ForumFrench ReviewMLNSymposium and, in France, the Revue des Sciences Humaines.

Charles Forsdick, James Barrow Professor of French at University of Liverpool and Series Editor of CFFC, said, “We are delighted to welcome Professor Derek Schilling as a new member of the editorial board of Contemporary French and Francophone Cultures. Derek is one of the leading international specialists on modern and contemporary French literature and culture, particularly well known for his extensive work on geocriticism and the relationship of literature and film to space and urbanisation in France since 1900. A specialist on authors such as Simenon, Céline, Queneau and Perec, he has also published widely on contemporary French film. Derek joins us as we celebrate the publication of the 50th title in the series and will offer invaluable advice and support as we commission our next 50 volumes mapping out the major movements and tendencies in twentieth- and twenty-first-century French and Francophone cultures.”

If you would like to submit a book proposal to the series please get in touch with Chloe Johnson at chloe.johnson@liverpool.ac.uk. You can find out more about the series here.

Modern Languages

Contemporary French and Francophone Cultures at 50: Mapping the Field

With the publication of Alison J. Murray Levine’s Vivre Ici: Space, Place and Experience in Contemporary French Documentary, the Liverpool University Press ‘Contemporary French and Francophone Cultures’ series has reached its fiftieth title. Series editor Charles Forsdick looks over the history and accomplishments of the series to mark the occasion. 

All Contemporary French and Francophone titles are 50% off this month. Use code CFFC50 or follow this link.

Since the launch of the collection in 2003, CFFC has included some of the most innovative, original and significant research in twentieth- and twenty-first-century French studies from throughout the English-speaking world. Strengthening the study of cinema in the series (other notable titles include Margaret C. Flinn’s The Social Architecture of French Cinema, 1929–1939), the appearance of Levine’s book is a perfect way to mark this milestone as it exemplifies the aims of the collection: Vivre ici analyses a key cultural trend in recent French culture, in this case the renaissance of contemporary French documentary film; it underlines the importance of space and place, aspects that link a number of titles in the series (most notably Verena Andermatt Conley’s Spatial Ecologies: Urban Sites, State and World-Space in French Cultural Theory); it reveals the cross-disciplinary reach of French studies, engaging with phenomenology, film theory, eco-criticism and cultural history; and perhaps most importantly, it engages with the subject in a way that speaks to a range of readers, not just in French studies and film studies but across a variety of other fields.

The growing success of the series is testament to the commitment of LUP to pioneering publishing initiatives in Modern Languages – including the Open Access platform Modern Languages Open – at a time when a number of other presses have withdrawn from the field or drastically limited their engagement with it. Reaching the fiftieth volume of a series characterized by consistent evidence of the highest quality scholarship is also a clear indication of something else: the continued health of ‘French studies in and for the twenty-first century’ as a buoyant research field, engaging with and on many occasions spearheading new initiatives in the arts and Humanities. CFFC does not stand in isolation: the authors who contribute to it are informed by the wide portfolio of French studies journals published by LUP, most notably Francosphères (whose new vision for the study of the French-speaking world without the divisions of the ‘French’ and the ‘Francophone’ has become an important point of reference), but also the Australian Journal of French Studies and Contemporary French Civilization. The series is also closely associated with the soon to be nine titles of the distinctive Society for Francophone Postcolonial Studies annual yearbook collection. At the same time, CFFC authors are often in dialogue – implicit or explicit – with other elements of the LUP catalogue, such as the series Postcolonialism Across the Disciplines, edited by Graham Huggan and Andrew Thompson, or the new initiative on Transnational Modern Languages.

Fifteen years ago, CFFC grew out of an original LUP series, edited by Ed Smyth, on ‘Modern French Authors’, a collection of monographs – in many case the first devoted to their subject in English – on important contemporary writers, including Akane Kawakami on Patrick ModianoJean-Pierre Boulé on Hervé Guibert and Siobhán McIlvanney on Annie Ernaux, Ed’s vision for the original series underpinned CFFC, where a number of titles – Jane Hiddleston on Assia DjebarMaeve McCusker on Patrick ChamoiseauDouglas Morrey on Michel HouellebecqAndrew Asibong on Marie NDiayeLucy O’Meara on Roland Barthes at the Collège de France, and Pierre-Philippe Fraiture on Valentin Mudimbe – demonstrate the radical diversification of literary and intellectual canonicity in the twenty-first century. CFFC’s titles have often sought, however, to move beyond the focus on individual authors to identify wider shifts in French and Francophone literary and cultural production. Jean Duffy, for instance, in Thresholds of Meaning, focused on the recurrent interest in passage, ritual and liminality in contemporary French narrative, or Larry Schehr, in what proved to be his final book, provided a major study of French postmodern masculinities, ranging – as his subtitle suggests, ‘from neuromatrices to seropositivity’. Visual cultural beyond the cinematic has also played an important role, with Matthew Screech and Mark McKinney both contributing volumes on French comics, the ‘ninth art’, Andy Stafford studying the important but neglected form the photo-essay, and David Scott devoting a volume to the poetics of the poster.

Given the historical emphases in French studies on monolingual and monocultural considerations, the series has actively sought to diversify and destabilize, and often denationalize and decolonize, any understanding of the field’s core object of studyLeslie Kealhofer-Kemp analyses, for instance, Muslim women in French Cinema; Kathryn A. Kleppinger explores what she calls the ‘branding’ of the ‘Beur’ author in minority writing and the media; and Katelyn E. Knox offers a provocative study of the representation of whiteness and blackness in contemporary French culture. This challenging destabilization of assumptions is particularly striking in Jane Hiddleston’s Decolonising the Intellectual, a telling study of politics and culture in the wake of the French Empire that stresses the evolution of notions of humanism in a frame of decolonization.

It is also important to note that through CFFC, Liverpool University Press has become one of the principal English-language publishers on Haitian literature and culture, responding to growing interest in the country following the 2010 earthquake, the subject of Martin Munro’s Writing on the Fault Line. Munro inaugurated a series of important titles in 2012 with his Exile and Post-1946 Haitian Literature, an influential study of key Haitian authors such as Alexis, Depestre, Ollivier, Laferrière and Danticat, and this book has been followed by other studies including Kaiama Glover’s major book on Spiralism, Haiti Unbound. The interest in Haiti reflects a wider commitment to work on the Francophone Caribbean, and CFFC includes Celia Britton on community in Caribbean writing, Louise Hardwick’s study of childhood and autobiographical writing in the AntillesJason Herbeck’s engagement with the controversial issues of identity and authenticity in the region, and Nick Nesbitt on the contribution of francophone Caribbean thinkers to Critical Theory. Other volumes have contributed to a wider mapping of the literatures and cultures of the Francosphere, and CFFC encompasses Debra Kelly on self and identity in North African writing in French, Raylene Ramsay’s work on Francophone Pacific writing (a volume soon to be complemented by Julia Waters’s study of contemporary Mauritian writing in French), as well as Rosemary Chapman’s searching reflections on the literary history of Francophone writing in Canada, Nicki Hithcott on Rwandan genocide writing and Ruth Bush on the underexplored area of publishing Africa in French. The series also focuses on other transnational connections, highlighting cultural axes within the Francosphere, such as in Edward Welch and Joseph McGonagle’s analysis of the visual economy of France and Algeria in the wake of the War of Independence, or exploring other genealogies that have attracted little attention, such as the role of North American authors in the birth of the Francophone African crime novel, as studied in a book by Pim Higginson. CFFC titles represent a simultaneous mapping and recontouring of some of the most exciting and urgent developments on French studies over the past fifteen years. Several have also proposed new paradigms for exploring the French-speaking world, as is the case with Bill Marshall’s study of the French Atlantic which promotes an approach that is both oceanic and diasporic.

The purview of CFFC is deliberately inclusive and eclectic, and extends to the study of wider socio-cultural phenomena such as cycling, the subject of a book by Hugh Dauncey, or French cultures of consumption, studied by David Walker. The series is additionally committed to revisiting disciplinary intersections, an aspect exemplified by Colin Davis’s recent engagement with ethics and trauma in twentieth-century French writing (an area that Mireille Rosello had already probed in The Reparative in Narratives, a book that argues many French-language authors repair trauma through writing). I note also Bruno Chaouat’s reflection on contemporary thought and anti-Semitism in Is Theory Good for the Jews?, itself intersecting with Lucille Cairns’s earlier book on Francophone Jewish writing. Another welcome development reflected in the series is at the point of intersection with cultural topography, and two highlights have been books by Keith Reader on the Bastille district and Nick Hewitt on Montmartre.

Finally, some recent contributions have pointed to the intellectually urgent work of exploring the limitations of French studies, especially when understood exclusively along national or linguistic lines. Yasser Elhariry’s Pacifist Invasions is exemplary in this regard, with its study of Arabic, translation and that the author calls the ‘postfrancophone lyric’, as is Denis Provencher’s searching study of the lives and stories of queer Maghrebi and Maghrebi French men in the light of the discourses and practices of sexual difference. Others have sought in similar ways to think beyond the Francophone and postcolonial, as it the case with Oana Panaïté in her study of ‘paracolonial aesthetics’ in contemporary French fiction or Aedin Ní Loingsigh’s pioneering volume on Francophone travelogues, Postcolonial Eyes.

The series would not have been possible without the dedication of our authors to sharing research that explores new boundaries – geographical, cultural and conceptual – in French studies. At the same time, we record our thanks to the CFFC advisory board, Tom Conley, Jackie Dutton, Lynn A. Higgins and Mireille Rosello. The inspirational contribution of the late Michael Sheringham, an enthusiastic advocate for the series, is also noted with profound gratitude. With forthcoming titles on places not yet represented in the collection such as French Guiana, on key but underexplored authors such as Joseph Zobel, on major cultural phenomena such as the periodical Lignes, the middlebrow, the performance of listening in postcolonial Francophone culturecross-dressing and gender performance in contemporary francophone Caribbean cultures and more besides, ‘Contemporary French and Francophone Cultures’ continues to grow, encompassing additional geographical areas within the Francosphere, studying developing cultural forms and analysing emerging theories and concepts. We look forward to the next fifty titles.

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*Offer ends midnight 31st March 2018.
News

5th Annual Lawrence R. Schehr Memorial Award winner announced…

Contemporary French Civilization (CFC), published by Liverpool University Press, is pleased to announce the results of the 5th Annual Lawrence R. Schehr Memorial Award competition for the best conference paper submitted by a junior colleague in the field of contemporary French civilization and cultural studies.

We received many excellent submissions again this year and would like to thank all of our junior colleagues who submitted essays for this competition. We would strongly encourage you to continue sending us your work in the future- both for the Schehr Memorial Award and for potential publication.


2016 Award Recipient: 


Dr. Patricia Goldsworthy (Western Oregon
 University) for her essay, “Orientalist Legacies and Photography in Contemporary Morocco” in which she examines the re-appropriation of the colonial heritage by photographer Lalla Essaydi in her two series, “Converging Territories” and “Les Femmes du Maroc” and by scholars of the Groupe de Recherches et d’Etudes sur Casablanca (GREC) at the Université Hassan II in their publication of Casablanca rétro.

The award recipient has been invited to publish an expanded version of the winning essay, after further peer review, in a forthcoming issue of CFC.

Congratulations to Dr. Goldsworthy for her excellent essay!

 

For more information about our winning author, please visit:
https://wou.academia.edu/PatriciaGoldsworthy

Details on next year’s competition will be available in early 2016 on H-France, Francofil, and the CFC journal website at:
http://online.liverpooluniversitypress.co.uk/loi/cfc

– Denis Provencher, editor of Contemporary French Civilization