[identity profile] ephaistion85.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] revolution_fr
I am sorry if someone already posted about this book, I did not find anything in the tag.
A couple of months ago I finished to read the new edition of Robespierre, derniers temps by J.Ph. Domecq, as I was curious to read about an alternative approach to historical narration. I am not an historian myself, but I am interested in history and as a writer (to-be?), historical fiction is my preferred genre.
The book is an interesting experiment, although, in my opinion, the author sets to himself a too high task; for those of you who might have not read it, it is an attempt to explain the behaviour of Robespierre in the nigh of Thermidor through what the author calls `intuition de la littérature'. The book is not completely fiction and it is constructed around quotation of various sources (primarily Robespierre's speeches), fragmented by an attempt of narrative and various thought of Domecq himself.
The experiment was at first curious, but it soon become really annoying and personally I do not think it achieved anything new; moreover the fictive portions were not enjoyable.
Furthermore at the end of the book is attached a shorter essay (La littérature comme acupuncture) about the role and the theory of historical fiction and the eventual contribution that a writer can give to a historian. It starts from a very sharp critic of another novel, Littell's Les Bienfaisants (that I personally enjoyed as a reading), to debate about the reception both in Literature and in History of Robespierre's figure.
Now, some questions for you. I was curious to know your opinion if you have read the book. Secondly, what is for you `good historical fiction'? I have read mostly discontent with fiction settled during the French Revolution, so it will be interesting to have some debate about what would be a good fiction (if it is actually possible to have one). Moreover what is the relation between (good) historical fiction and History itself, taking to account the fact that we are speaking of two really different genres with very different rules?

Date: 2011-11-20 04:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hanriotfran.livejournal.com
I don't read the book myself and after reading your comments I don't think I would purchase this one. It sounds like a waste of money and time. I should save both, money and time for more interesting and books.

I'm writing fictional little tales about Hanriot, but when doing it, I try to make clear to persons who reads me that they are not the real thing, that this is not a biography and I don't pretend to discover Hanriot's real motivations by those writings...Sometimes I have the illusion that I know him better than historians but of course I know it ISN'T true and that this is a fantasy.

My problem with the kind of books like the Domecq's one is that they are not totally fiction and they are not totally history. A little like the cases of George Büchner's "Dantons Tod " and Stanislawa Prybyzewska (I'm writing her name straight?) "Danton's Case" and "Thermidor". Büchner and Prybyzewska believed they understood Danton's and Robespierre's inner beings, but they only put their own ideos into their heads...I suppose is pretty the same I do with Hanriot...but of course my works is by far, less impressive and less great than theirs.

I like reading GOOD historical fictions, but I know that when reading these, I end by knowing all about their authors ideas and few about real historical events and persons.

Date: 2011-11-20 04:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hanriotfran.livejournal.com
My point is that in fiction, you tries to bring people to sgare what do you think about a character. It doesn't matter when you are speaking about a totally fictional character and using him/her to defend your point of view, but certainly it could be dangerous if you uses Robespierre to say whay YOU are wanting to say and not him.

Fiction is O.K ;fictional history is not innocent.

I don't think it's childish to beg for a little more accuracy when reading a novel about French Revolution. When you portrais Saint-Just as a bad , psychopatic character it's clear that you wants to show him that way and bring the people to think the same. Yes, you also could do that with real biographies, but your work will be harder, since you need documents to support your views. IN fictions, you just put a nasty sentence in Saint-Just mouth and the work is done...

And yes; you sure makes a "tacit contract" with the reader, but you perfectly knows that most of the readers accepts what they read as real. I've spoke with people who believes thatBabette Duplay was an idiotic and would run after every single man she would see for they've read it in "A Place pof Greater Safety" or that Saint-Just was very happy of killing Camille just for "Danton".

I never wanted an author to portrait characters exactly as I should like them, but I become mad when they lies too much. Little lies are O.K;but I didn't like big lies .

I enjoy both, Büchner and Prybyzewska, tough.

Date: 2011-11-21 07:09 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hanriotfran.livejournal.com
Here, we agree completely.And maybe my problem to explain myself is that my English is not great. My replies uses to be long too, because I'm afraid of not being undrestood.

I think that the trouble could be more in the reader than in thw novelist. Sometimes, readers don't realize they are reading a fictional book, and when they read real history books they still have the fictional characters portrayed in their minds. For them, when they read about Robespierre, Maximilien will be the guy they read about in "The Scarlet Pimpernel" or "A Place of Greater safety". Of course, this is pretty common when we thinks about French Revolution movies. For some people, Camille will always be the "goody-goody" boy from "The French revolution; Years of Hope" and "Years of Rage", while for others he'll be the hysterical and childish guy from "Danton", and so on...I suppose that this problem wouldn't exist if people could read history books about French Revolution BEFORE watching fictional films or reading fictional books. Bit of course this is totally impossible. Only a desideratum.

You are right about fictional characters being 100% good or 100%, a thing that wouldn't exist in real life. But people likes to see the characters simplfied .It didn't happens only in history fiction, but in all kind of fictional narrative. In the case of real characters the only thing you need to do to show him as a bad or good person is to magnify the evil or good side of his/her personality to make his/her characterwork in the general plot.

I agree about "A Place of Greater Safety". Again, I could understand the book only for I had read historical works about French revolution before. If not, the whole thing could become very confusing indeed.

I've also watched the infamous BBC documentary in which Hilary Mantel spoke about Terror, and it was really pitiful. But it was quite useful for me too, since I understood much better why she wrote her novel the way she did.

Date: 2011-11-21 09:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] estellacat.livejournal.com
I have Domecq's book, but I haven't read it. I heard him give an interview with J-C Martin and Alexandre Cousin on the radio recently and he didn't seem to have a very original perspective on Robespierre or the Revolution, but of course I can't judge the work itself based on that.

As for what makes a good historical novel, I'm not sure I have any absolute criterion except not to be manipulative. And I realize this is a potentially subjective criterion and it's difficult to define exactly what I mean by that, but to give an example: take the movie "Sade" (hey, it's a ficitional portrayal too). Briefly, the Robespierriste character is shown being abusive to his girlfriend, while Sade is shown as a character who is gentle with and respectful of women. While the former portrayal especially cannot be termed "inaccurate," since the character in question is fictional, I feel that it is manipulating the audience by creating a false sympathy for Sade and a false antipathy for Robespierre and his friends - false in that Saint-Just, an actual historical friend of Robespierre's, wrote that people who beat women should be banished from his ideal republic, while in Sade's ideal republic women have to be sexually available to any man at any time and don't have the right to say no, in addition to his record of sexual assault (which I think may fairly be called the antithesis of his character's implied beliefs in the film). Therefore the film is giving Sade credit for robespierriste beliefs and blaming the Robespierristes for Sade's beliefs in order to elicit sympathy for the former and antipathy towards the latter. And yes, you could argue that it's the viewer's responsibility to realize that this is just fiction and not to allow it to inform their views of Robespierre or Sade, but how many viewers who aren't historians are actually going to do that? Author's of fictions in my view, have a duty to the public not to manipulate them.

Now that we have moral imperatives out of the way, it behooves authors of historical fictions to follow much the same rules they would follow as authors of any kind of fiction: don't create one-dimensional characters or use artificial plot devices; do allow the story to grow in a plausible manner out of conflicts that arise based on the characters and the circumstances they're placed in. Without taking these guidelines into effect, no work of fiction can be considered good.

Finally, I have my own personal criteria, those which make a work of historical fiction, in particular one focusing on the Revolution, worth reading or not to me (see part 2 of this exceedingly long comment).

Date: 2011-11-21 09:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] estellacat.livejournal.com
First, it's a pretty safe bet I'm not going to enjoy reading/watching/listening to/whatever anything counterrevolutionary. There could theoretically be an exception to this, but it would have to be very good in other respects. Of course, many counterrevolutionary works already transgress against proper literary practice, by doing things like turning Robespierre into a cardboard villain, or are simply manipulative to a greater or lesser degree.

I'm also probably not going to enjoy any fiction where the author didn't do his or her research. This one is largely self-explanatory: I study this period; I will be seriously annoyed by any fictional portrayal of it that seems to be based on having watched the History Channel documentary. This is not to say that I require perfect accuracy. There are mistakes in "City of Darkness, City of Light" (as well as places where I disagree with the interpretation, but we'll get to that) and I still think it's probably the best English language novel on the Revolution. There are plenty of inaccuracies in the movie "Les mariés de l'an II," but it's a farce and the inaccuracies were clearly deliberate changes made for the sake of humor and the plot, by authors who knew the period well enough to give a flavor of it even while diverging from a strictly accurate account, and it's one of my favorite films on the Revolution. Note, of course, that comedies of this nature are the exception to the rule about well-developed characters; all the characters in the film are stereotypes, but that's the point, and in fact, the more you know about the period, the more the portrayals of different groups become like an inside joke.

And then there's the question of interpretation. And here a distinction needs to be made between works which have an original plot, often with fictional characters, in which the Revolution is the setting, and works in which the Revolution is the plot, or a large part of it, in which the main characters are usually, but not always (think R. Margerit's La Révolution series, in which the main characters are something of a composite of various historical figures - plus the author's own perspective and characters from late 18th century novels - and take part in major historical events) actual historical figures.

In both types of novel, I think it's helpful for the author to have his or her own, plausible interpretation of events, but I think it's absolutely crucial for the latter type - or at least for my enjoyment of it. The former type can get away with simply adopting an existing interpretation and rolling with it, provided the original plot and characters are worth reading about.

Works in which the Revolution pretty much constitutes the plot have to have an original interpretation for me to consider them any good. And yes, I do mean original in the sense that one expects a historians work to be original. There is no point in my reading yet another fictionalized biography of Robespierre unless that author has an original take on his life and ideas. If you're just going to write another piece on his and Danton's dueling personalities - a trope that cliché and dull from a literary perspective as well as, in my view, a poor interpretation of the historical events of the fall of the factions - no one has any reason to read you, if only because that's already been done to death.

Part 3 (Sorry! I got carried away...)

Date: 2011-11-21 09:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] estellacat.livejournal.com
The only real reason to write a fictionalized account of historical figures' lives, as far as I'm concerned, is if you're going to come up with a new interpretation from the point of view of a genre that allows for speculation, as history usually does not. A novelist has far more leeway to fill in gaps in the historical record than a historian does. Historical fiction of this kind, at its best, is a kind of thought experiment and should ideally be as meticulously researched and thought out as works of non-fictional history. When this happens, the two genres can complement each other. Take for example, the famous question of whether Robespierre was shot or attempted suicide. The historian has to acknowledge both possibilities, discuss the reasons for believing one or the other and review the historiography even if his or her interpretation ultimately comes down on one side or the other, and his or her analysis can also only employ that which has actually been documented and survived to the historian's time. The novelist, on the other hand, can illustrate one theoretical possibility, employing thoughts and actions that could theoretically been taken - that is, that do not openly contradict the historical record - and which might explain why things might have gone one way or another, but on which the historical record is silent. Thermidor itself is another, even better example of how fictional accounts can complement historical accounts; it seems obvious that the session of the Convention of 9 Thermidor was plotted in advance, but as F. Brunel points out, the historical record doesn't tell us much of anything about that. A novel could speculate about how that happened. And one could multiply the examples: what was actually discussed at CSP meetings? A history can't tell us, but a novel could come up with a plausible speculation.

In other words, there are certain tools open to the author of fiction which the historian can't use and I will get annoyed with any author who does not make use of them. I will respect any author who works in this way, whether or not I agree with his or her interpretation, just as I respect any rigorous historian whether or not I agree with his or her interpretation. Which is not to say that this can't be abused - there are certainly implausible things that can be inserted into a fictional narrative where the sources are silent, based on the logic that no one can prove that it didn't happen that way, but if an author does this, the exercise loses its interest. Though again, this is subjective.

To be honest, however, the closer a book comes to my own interpretation(s), or even to interpretations that I think the author makes a good case for, even if I don't share them, the more I'm going to enjoy reading it. Which is why this is so subjective. I have a great deal of respect for Robert Margerit, for example, but his portrayal of Thermidor was painful for me to read, (mainly because I don't agree with his premise that any rational person living at the time would essentially hold an Aulardian view of the culte de l'Être suprême and therefore Robespierre brought Thermidor on himself for wanting to force a new religion on people who were apparently already all won over to 20th century style laïcité). Does that make any work of fiction (or any history, for that matter) that disagrees with my interpretations inherently "bad"? No, not necessarily. It might be bad for other reasons, but not just because of that.

Part 4 (oops.)

Date: 2011-11-21 09:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] estellacat.livejournal.com
Of course, sometimes a work has something about it that makes a good deal of this go out the window. I have a great fondness for Victor Hugo's Quatre-Vingt-Treize. Admittedly, it's not counterrevolutionary or particularly manipulative, but it's also not always very accurate, the characters are archetypes rather than actual human beings, and it certainly doesn't provide a historical interpretation of the Revolution that any modern historian would find credible. So why do I like it? It's epic; it's poetic; it's about a fundamental clash of ideas and ideals, even if they're more those of Hugo's time than the Revolution; it has some beautiful passages in it and also some very funny ones. What else can I say? It's Victor Hugo and he's my favorite novelist.

And I guess this brings me to my final point, which is that I can potentially find any work of historical fiction worth reading.* I can come up with criteria as to what makes the best historical fiction all I want, and certainly the more of the criteria a work fits the more likely it is that I'll enjoy it, but in the end, it's just not that simple.

*With one exception: the rule about manipulation pretty much always stands. Especially the kind that seems to go like this: "Author: I hate the Revolution and I want everyone else to hate it too, but I'm worried that they won't hate it enough if I just portray it as I actually think it happened, so I'm going to have Robespierre condone torture or molest children just to be safe."

Re: Part 4 (oops.)

Date: 2011-11-22 11:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] estellacat.livejournal.com
Thanks for reading all that; I'm afraid I wrote you something of a mini-essay. I'll try to be brief this time.

What I was trying to get at regarding the "Robespierre vs. Danton" mythos and how that's drawn on in fiction, is first, quite simply, that I'm tired of it because it seems like all anyone ever writes/makes films about. This doesn't mean that it's categorically impossible for someone to write something about it that I would enjoy, since I never rule anything out. Second, the lack of self-awareness on the part of authors that use this trope annoys me. They usualy don't seem to realize that they're drawing on a myth that's been being constructed in literature and history going back to the 19th century. Indeed, this dichotomy is frequently presented as self-evident.

Now, I understand that topoi are important in fiction. However, with rare exceptions, I don't want to read about Danton and Robespierre the literary characters, grounded more in their mythology than in primary sources. Perhaps I'm too much of a historian in this, but if I'm going to read/watch a work of fiction in which Robespierre and Danton are the main characters, I would like one that challenges the audience's assumptions, preferably by going back and re-examining the sources (though of course the worst of all possible worlds is when a work claims to be doing that just repeats the same old myth anyway). And yes, that is the same thing I appreciate in a work of non-fiction, but so be it. I've already explained how the approaches differ, even when it happens that both have the same goal of creating a plausible reconstruction. Because of this, I don't see them as the same, but I understand how it would be possible to argue that I don't appreciate literature for what it is and just want to make it a handmaiden to history. Which is actually pretty true. *shrugs* That's probably why I study history and not literature.

Besides, I believe we owe a certain respect to the dead. For me, part of that respect means that if we're going to represent them, we have a duty to represent them not as they would have wanted to be represented, but as much as we possibly can, as they appear to us based on surviving evidence. The dead are not literary characters or puppets, but real people, and perhaps it's superstitious, but it feels almost sacrilegious to me, if one is going to portray them, in fiction or otherwise, not to make a sincere effort to understand and represent them as they were, or as closely as we can reconstruct it.*

*That may mean our judgment of them is ultimately negative and we represent them accordingly, but if that's the case we're ultimately weakening and not strengthening our case if we feel the need to embellish. And I don't mean filling in plausible, or at least not implausible, details. I mean, there's plenty of reason to dislike Fouché and there are plently of places in the historical record where we can't prove he was involved in some kind of intrigue and yet where he likely was. It's not disrespectful to his memory to portray him as involved in an intrigue at a moment when it could well have happened but we have no record of it, because we do have a great deal of evidence that Fouché was an intriguer. But there is, as far as I know, no good reason to suppose that Fouché enjoyed torturing small animals. Thus, it would be doing an equal disservice to his memory (not to mention the intended audience) to represent him as an entirely upright and innocent individual and to represent him as a torturer of small animals, because neither representation shows an equitable judgment of Fouché based on available evidence.

Re: Part 4 (oops.)

Date: 2011-11-22 11:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] estellacat.livejournal.com
As for the difference between manipulation and interpretation, I agree there are grey areas. But the one thing that's always manipulation in my book is when you have to invent a scenario that contradicts the historical record in order to support your argument. Not just a scenario that isn't mentioned by the historical record; that's fine and even necessary to the genre, but one that opposes it. For example, when at the beginning of the film "Danton," Éléonore strikes her little brother (who, for the record, was actually about fifteen at the time, but that's a less important detail) at a time when the Commune of Paris had just passed a decree prohibiting corporal punishment (as Marie-Hélène Huet points out). Could this scenario have happened? Well, obviously not, since the child in question was much too old for his sister to be giving him a bath and wasn't in Paris at the time anyway. But could a Robespierriste woman have theoretically struck a child in this period? Sure. Is it likely? No, not particularly, since she could probably be reasonably expected to agree with the Commune's decree. But that's not the point either. This is manipulation because the film is heavily implying that what it's portraying as "robespierriste ideology" is warped and unnatural because it involves hitting children, whereas while it's theoretically possible that any given individual identifying with Robespierre's ideals could strike a child, it would be going against those very ideals to do so. Was this conscious manipulation? Did the filmmakers do enough research to know about that aspect of robespierriste thought? Did they care, given that they were using the Revolution as a cipher for Poland in the 1980s (another proceeding I have some serious problems with)? Probably not. Was it still manipulation? Yes. Do I still hold the filmmakers responsible for it? Absolutely. Because they clearly lack that fundamental respect for history that I discussed above. Ironically, they seem to take the same view of it as the Stalinists they're denouncing, i.e. that "the truth is whatever I find politically expedient." (This is, of course, most apparent, laughably so, even, in the scene where they have Robespierre make David erase Fabre from his painting of the Serment du Jeu de Paume, as they are literally fabricating history in order to denounce the fabrication of history.)

But yes, like most things, there's no hard and fast rule of what counts as manipulation. It's subjective, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist or that it's impossible to avoid without writing something dry and boring. Honestly, I think a lot of this has to do with intent. If you set out to write an interesting/entertaining/thought-provoking story while attempting to be respectful of history it's hard to go wrong on the manipulation front.

As to being boring, I think a lot of authors make the mistake of thinking that the more you invent and deviate from the historical record, the more interesting your work will be. Not so. Often these kinds of changes make a story less original, a character less three-dimensional, a scenario less interesting. Making one's work interesting has to do with one's skill as a writer more than anything else. If one feels too reined in by the constraints of writing about historical characters, there's no reason why one shouldn't invent one's own characters and storylines, but one shouldn't necessarily imagine that they will automatically be more interesting than a well-done work of fiction that stays closer to the historical record.

I think your idea sounds fascinating, or at least like something I would want to read. It's not a perspective too many people have adopted and there are stories worth telling there. And all this especially because, as you say, women have not been represented very well in most existing fictional accounts of the Revolution. I'm very glad that my LJ has in some small way, been able to inspire this idea, because I do think it has a lot of potential and I would definitely encourage you to continue with it.

Clarification

Date: 2011-11-23 12:06 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] estellacat.livejournal.com
I should probably clarify, re: the issue of respect for the dead, that I do think it's possible to have respect for them and not hold to the letter of what I say above. It's more the attitude of regarding historical figures as one's playthings, as only existing for one's own amusement that bothers me. I do think we have a duty to try not to distort the lives and ideas of historical figures when we represent them, but that doesn't mean we can't have fun with it. There's plenty of room for what ifs and trying out different scenarios in the gaps left by the historical record. The key is to do so while keeping in mind that this is a real person, not a figment of my imagination to be manipulated as I please.

Re: Clarification 2

Date: 2011-11-24 12:11 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] estellacat.livejournal.com
I think I understand what you're getting at now. I suppose I don't really think about that angle because, while if I wrote a novel I would certainly like it to be published and for people to read it, but I have no intention of making my living as a novelist. In fact, hypothetically speaking, if I could magically decide between having many readers but not making any money and making a lot of money but not actually getting read, I would choose the latter any day. Because of this, I wouldn't simplify my characters to suit current tastes. It would surely be immensely frustrating not to get published for that reason - and I have great sympathy for the challenges you and others have faced with the publishing industry - but it would defeat the point for me to get published at the expense of portraying history in a fair, complex, and plausible manner, since the only reason I would care if anyone read my work would be that it would ideally provide an alternative to something like A Place of Greater Safety.

As I said, I would really be interested in reading anything that comes out of this project. But I also understand the difficulties you're having. I've played with the idea of writing a novel from Éléonore's point of view for a long time, but it is difficult to know how to portray her, it light not only of the largely pretty awful fictional representations of her that already exist, but also of the sources, none of which really give a helpful portrayal of her personality (though there are hints here and there). As for Charlotte, I'm afraid I also have some difficulty relating to her.

Date: 2011-12-31 02:47 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] estellacat.livejournal.com
Sorry to take so long to get back to you - between my research and applications and coming to visit my family, I haven't had much free time.

It does put those of us who want to write something worthwhile that is actually going to get read in something of a conundrum. As for those who are in it for fame and wealth, it's futile, I know, but I wish they would at least leave the Revolution alone. There are so many other things they could be writing about that don't require as much care.

Your thoughts on both Éléonore and Charlotte are really quite astute. Really, to the point that there's not much I can add, except that in Éléonore's case, the real challenge for any fictional portrayal, given the point to which I agree that she exemplifies courage, strength, and intelligence, is to allow her to have those qualities, but to make sure she remains a human, relatable character. Okay, so there is one more thing I would add, and that is what I believe to be the duality of Éléonore's engagement: yes, she was devoted to Robespierre and yes, her views were surely influenced by his, but many authors represent her as a kind of cipher who falls in love with Robespierre and then adopts his ideas simply because they're his. If we are to postulate that Éléonore was an intelligent person, then that just won't do. There is no reason to suppose that Éléonore would not grapple with the questions of the day herself and that her connection to Robespierre, whatever its nature, might in part be based on political affinity. Indeed, I think it must have been, given how devoted Robespierre himself was to politics...

You make some excellent points about Charlotte as well. Certainly, Charlotte had to face great losses, not just with Thermidor, but throughout her life. A lot of her actions can doubtless by traced to her difficulty in coping with them. There are probably plausible enough explanations for her seemingly irrational jealousy of her brothers to be found as well. I have more difficulty relating to her than to Éléonore, but I agree that that doesn't necessarily make her a less interesting character to work with.

I would certainly be interested in reading anything you feel like posting and I'll try to give useful feedback (though I'm afraid I can't promise that it will be timely).

Date: 2012-01-02 10:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] estellacat.livejournal.com
I am afraid that with Éléonore my risk is to make her too erudite
I think the best way to counter that is by researching the kind of education Éléonore is likely to have had. From what I know so far, it seems to have been somewhere between that of Lucile Desmoulins and that of Manon Roland, and they (and others) can serve as points of comparison (the latter's memoirs are especially interesting as a reminder that for the kind of person who will read whatever books s/he can, the education taken from that reading can be at least as important as any formal instruction). We know that she and her sisters were educated in the Couvent de la Conception, which adjoined the house in the rue Saint-Honoré (which, however, they did not move into until 1779, which makes me wonder whether they were already attending the convent school before that point). The content of that education, however, is not something I've yet been able to discover. I have a feeling Martine Sonnet's L'Éducation des filles au temps des Lumières or other similar books may prove instructive, once I get a hold of them.... In any case, there are some probable limits: e.g., it's unlikely that Éléonore knew Latin or Greek (however, that probably did not stop her from reading certain works in translation).

I can't picture a setting such as `Robespierre's circle' as a net of relationships without intellectual involvement of some kind, as I do believe that strong tides always involve some kind of intellectual exchange.
I agree. I think certain authors have a tendency of supposing Élisabeth Le Bas's level of interest in politics and intellectual pursuits as typical of her sisters as well, probably at least in part because she's the only one who wrote a memoir, but I think her own testimony rather suggests otherwise, since she was, as she says, considered especially "étourdie" by her family.

Good luck with your applications and best wishes for the new year
Thank you! A happy new year to you too! (Or a happy 12 nivôse...)

Date: 2012-01-05 01:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] estellacat.livejournal.com
Yes, I recall that - Louis-le-Grand was one of the few schools that still taught Greek by the late 18th century, as over the course of the 17th and 18th centuries Greek had been phased out as the vernacular was phased in. Latin was still standard (at varying levels of sophistication), but not for girls in the vast majority of cases. But as you point out, there were a great many classical texts available in bilingual editions or simply in translation.

If you're looking for an online copy of Manon Roland's memoirs, Google books has one. I'm not sure for her letters and other writings, however.

At the moment I compiled a scene where Éléonore indirectly quotes from Rollin's Histoire Romaine, I think this can be likely.
You're right, that seems like a work she would probably have been familiar with. In fact, it was one of the books found among Robespierre's things at the Duplays: http://www.persee.fr/web/revues/home/prescript/article/ahrf_0003-4436_1992_num_287_1_1479?luceneQuery=%28%2B%28content%3Arobespierre+title%3Arobespierre%5E2.0+fullContent%3Arobespierre%5E100.0+fullTitle%3Arobespierre%5E140.0+summary%3Arobespierre+authors%3Arobespierre%5E5.0+illustrations%3Arobespierre%5E4.0+bibrefs%3Arobespierre%5E4.0+toctitles%3Arobespierre%5E4.0+toctitles1%3Arobespierre%5E3.0+toctitles2%3Arobespierre%5E2.0+toctitles3%3Arobespierre%29+%2B%28content%3Aduplay+title%3Aduplay%5E2.0+fullContent%3Aduplay%5E100.0+fullTitle%3Aduplay%5E140.0+summary%3Aduplay+authors%3Aduplay%5E5.0+illustrations%3Aduplay%5E4.0+bibrefs%3Aduplay%5E4.0+toctitles%3Aduplay%5E4.0+toctitles1%3Aduplay%5E3.0+toctitles2%3Aduplay%5E2.0+toctitles3%3Aduplay%29+%2B%28content%3Alivres+title%3Alivres%5E2.0+fullContent%3Alivres%5E100.0+fullTitle%3Alivres%5E140.0+summary%3Alivres+authors%3Alivres%5E5.0+illustrations%3Alivres%5E4.0+bibrefs%3Alivres%5E4.0+toctitles%3Alivres%5E4.0+toctitles1%3Alivres%5E3.0+toctitles2%3Alivres%5E2.0+toctitles3%3Alivres%29%29+AND+%28+%2Baccess_right%3A%28free%29+%29&words=robespierre&words=100&words=140&words=duplay&words=livres&words=free (That's a ridiculously long link, I apologize.) If she didn't have her own copy, she could have borrowed his (assuming it actually belonged to him).

I suppose it is true that the lack of any extensive mention of politics in Élisabeth's memoirs doesn't necessarily make her apolitical, especially considering her audience. If we were to assume that, we would also have to assume that because she barely mentions her sisters, she never interacted with them, which I think even Yalom would surely find ridiculous. There is however some positive evidence, if not for Élisabeth's lack of interest in politics, at least for her naïveté: when she writes that her family considers her "étourdie" and her comment regarding the harvests. It is of course never safe to assume anything, but these qualities, along with what seems to be the focus of her memoirs and correspondence certainly at least suggest that she was likely not engaging in sophisticated political analysis, at least not at the age of 20. Though I certainly wouldn't go out of my way to disagree with anyone putting forward a coherent argument to the contrary.

Re: Clarification 1

Date: 2011-11-24 12:26 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] estellacat.livejournal.com
Actually, I think you're completely right; all of Wajda's "Danton" is a manipulation. The particular instance I cite may not be intentional, but part of the reason I can't excuse it is the larger context of deliberate manipulation. While it's certainly true that people will disagree with me on this, I don't think deliberately manipulating people is ever legitimate, no matter who you are. By the way, is that where Desmoulins got his Tacitus "citation"? From an English "translation"? Because it's certainly not in the Latin... In any case, I consider that to be one of the more manipulative instances of references to Antiquity during the Revolution, though, of course, my feelings on the matter in general are rather complicated...

I agree, it's also best to avoid simply inserting speeches. I've read several works that annoy me to no end by having Robespierre in particular always speak in quotations from his own speeches, even when he's just having a private conversation. It's as if it doesn't occur to them that these are two different registers. It's one thing to have him discussing the ideas he's going to speak about, it's quite another to have him giving orations at the breakfast table.

Date: 2011-12-31 03:01 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] estellacat.livejournal.com
Thanks for the references - I'm afraid it's not a question I've looked to much into, as my research is currently focusing on 1791-1792 and principally on the journal the "Révolutions de Paris." I've observed in the sources I've have been looking at that direct quotations are rare and long ones almost non-existent (when they come up they're usually a line or two long). So it doesn't surprise me that that would be the case more generally as well. Still, all the quotations I've found so far can be traced back to their original sources in roughly the same form. Which just makes Desmoulins' claim to simply be offering a translation of Tacitus all the more disingenuous...

Date: 2011-11-22 03:59 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hanriotfran.livejournal.com
Well, Estellacat, you've said it! I share totally your point of view, and I wish I could have the same level of English than you to stand my views the way you does.

I can't add a single more word to your three message above. They portraits my exact thoughts on the issue.

Date: 2011-11-22 11:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] estellacat.livejournal.com
I'm glad you understand what I was trying to get at. It's hard to ever fully answer the kind of questions posed here (which is probably why my comments are so long).

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