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Friday, September 28, 2012

Reading # 3: The Code Napoleon and Madame de Staël in Exile!

Okay, the Readings are speeding up now!
If you're too busy to keep up with all of the readings, it's not a problem to read ahead, fall behind, pick out what seems most interesting, or even just follow along on the blog and refer to the Reader when a discussion here makes you want to check something there out. And of course we can continue threads that have already been begun here, because there's still more than can be explored on some of the recent posts.

Having said that, we're moving on to the next reading for next week, looking at pages 47-82. Kind of a long one, admittedly: We'll be looking at part of the Code Napoleon, which as I understand it is still the foundation of French law (with many changes of course); and at some work by Madame de Staël.

The Napoleonic Code is much, much longer than this and we weren't able to go through it as carefully as we'd have liked before our deadline to get the Reader printed in time; so though it's pretty dry, it would be a help if anybody wants to spend some more time with it and post your findings. One issue: the Napoleonic Code was, by all accounts, much more repressive toward women than the Law had been under the Monarchy; and it re-affirmed the Slave Trade after the Revolutionary government had begun to slowly phase it out. These very important developments aren't really adequately represented in this reading. Maybe we could collectively correct that shortcoming?

Similarly, I considered it essential to have Staël represented, but don't feel I've had enough room to do her justice. The passage from the Preface of On Germany conveys its subversive nature, but we could use more examples of her criticism itself. I didn't have time to dig up more of her thinking on the relationship between Culture and Politics, in which she was a pioneering Liberal thinker (and I should mention that she was the daughter of the Liberal politician and economist Necker, the last Finance Minister under the Monarchy, whose dismissal after calling the Estates-General largely touched off the Revolution). These would be great to have represented in the final, expanded edition of the reader--quickly becoming a series of anthologies--that we'll start preparing in May.

I'll be finishing my research and text-gathering for Vol. II over the weekend, so I'll probably be silent on the blog until next week but the conversations seem to be going forward just fine--next week I'll post the final Contents of Vol. II, and join in on the discussion for this reading--Huzzah!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Checking In with some Extra Resources...

Sorry I’ve not been active enough on the blog here lately, I’ve been working triple-time preparing Vol. II of the reader (which will probably clock in at 350 pages, with texts by about 30 people and more images), which needs to be ready for the printer’s proof in about 10 days. Thanks to everybody for keeping the discussions going!

I’m going to respond over the weekend to the most recent posts —thanks to Terri (and Germseed) for keeping Music in the mix as we go forward, and Lily for your last post, which opens up on several really vital questions that it will take awhile for us to explore!

In the meantime, I’m going to post some links to other texts related to the current Reading, or which I wish I’d included.

Gothic Novels
Even though the novels from this period are all English, popular Gothic subculture will soon spread to France where it will be incorporated into some of the most radical cultural experiments of the time, and leave a lasting mark on the French avant-garde. I really ought to have had a sample or two in the reader. Here are some of the most influential, all of which would become bestsellers in France during the 1810s-‘20s

And check out Valencourt Press—this is one of my favourite micropresses, they seek out the last un-decayed copies of the cheaply produced pulp gothic novels of the 18th and 19th Centuries and publish new editions of books which for the most part haven’t been read for around 200 years.

Byron has a huge range, here are a few other of his long narrative poems:
-Don Juan: Byron’s satirical masterpiece—humorous, digressive, and technically playful.
-Cain: I’ve been wanting to read this for years—biblical vampirism can’t go too far wrong, I should imagine.
-Childe Harolde: Probably Byron’s most autobiographical poem, by which I don’t necessarily mean the most ‘true to life’ but the one through which he most forcefully moulded his own public image.

-Werther (here’s the full text)
-Faust: Goethe’s most influential verse, a gigantic influence on all of the progressive literature of the first half of the century.

-Atala (the full text)
-The Genius of Christianity: Chateaubriand’s thesis (as I understand it) on Romantic theology, how he thought Christianity must adapt to the conditions of modernity. Not surprisingly, I haven’t read it.

More next week—once I’m done editing Vol. II I can spend more time on here again!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Two Declarations, Evolution of Revolt

This is admittedly-late and gets into some pretty general, non-French history, but I wanted to compare the context of the 1789 and 1793 Declarations of the Rights of Man to other moments when the nature of social upheaval was being contested.

The National Assembly that ratified the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man had come out of the Estates-General assembly. As a Third-Estate-lead group, it broke away from the Estates General- a body supposed to represent all three estates- because the more-elite First and Second Estates, though in the minority, still tried to dominate the meetings. The Estates General quickly dissolved, and First and Second Estate people came over to join the National Assembly.

What's interesting to me is that, as the timeline of the revolution shows, the Estates-General itself was called by Notables who themselves had been gathering to Royal power. (am I getting that right??) So, people from the ruling class were saying, "we are not adequate representatives of the people" and calling for the creation of a democratically-elected body of common people and their representatives, to replace them as a deciding force? I wonder what the motivation was behind that particular maneuver, it seems so unlikely...

Anyway, by the time the 1789 Declaration was issued, the National Assembly had replaced the Estates General as the deciding force. The year had already seen the Tennis Court Oath and the destruction of the Bastille, but the Declaration still used language like "property rights," and "social (class) distinctions" being "for the common good," and seemed to lean heavily on some platonic ideal of "the nation." As Olchar pointed out, the assembly, at that point, was not in a position where it could condemn the existence of aristocracy and social class itself.

So I'm interested in why society has sometimes been able to re-imagine itself as a radically different thing, and make comprehensive, militant efforts to rid itself of class structures altogether, and other times has only been able to advocate "fairness" within existing structures- the (tangled, non-linear) evolution of revolt.
Guns, Germs, and Steel describes the transition to settled, surplus-agricultural communities, where the first class distinctions rose up around control of surplus and land. A pattern in Polynesian chiefdoms, pre-colonization, that was typical for societies in that early, proto-state stage of development:
"Kleptocracies with little public support run the risk of being overthrown, either by downtrodden commoners or by upstart would-be replacement kleptocrats seeking public support by promising a higher ratio of services rendered to fruits stolen. For example, Hawaiian history was repeatedly punctuated by revolts against repressive chiefs, usually led by younger brothers promising less oppression. This may sound funny to us in the context of old Hawaii, until we reflect on all the misery still being caused by such struggles in the modern world.
 But in other pre-capitalist, still quite feudal, societies, things evolved to the point where large parts of the population started to reorganize their lives around anarchic, communal production. For instance, over a hundred years before the French revolution, the English peasantry lead non-violent movements to "work the land in common" and abolish the "sin of Property." They were powerful because lots of peasants enlisted as soldiers were on their side.

The Diggers and the Levellers were the best known of these groups, the first turning land into communes to free people from the lot of tenant-farmers, and the latter engaging in army mutinies against the colonization of Ireland, in some pretty solid international solidarity. I'm personally fascinated by a lesser-known group, the Ranters, doing communism before communism was a thing, and adding undeniable vivacity to the mad history of spiritual anarchism. (Check these guys out, for real.)

The English peasants themselves were drawing on a history of revolt in mainland Europe- again, over a century earlier, the German Peasants' War had been a massive effort to get free from aristocracy- and had extended from Germany, into northeastern France. What social memory, if any, was there among French commoners two and a half centuries later? Did this at all influence their concepts of what was possible through joining the Revolution? Did the inspiration, in some way, work its way over to Britain while it was crushed on the mainland, and then echo back later?

So we see the second Declaration, four years later after the Revolutionary regime has taken power, still talking about property rights but focused much more on public control of taxation, the establishment of social welfare programs, while also preluding the Terror:
"Let any person who may usurp the sovereignty be instantly put to death by free men."

What do we make of the way the Third Estate label described peasants, wage workers and the urban poor, and the bourgeoisie merchants alike? What caution did the emerging bourgeoisie have to take, since they were not yet the ruling class and had to navigate an uncertain relationship with the feudal aristocracy? Was it ultimately a capitalist revolution they made, with the rise of powerful merchants being uniquely able to get France out of financial crisis? Or did underclass forces effectively advance their interests in some ways, giving us something of a bastion in the ongoing struggle?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Musical Notes

After reading the second reading, I went looking for some background on Goethe, and found reference to his participation in the German artistic movement known as Sturm und Drang, which was a sort of precursor to the French artistic movements that featured heightened intensity and exploration of the inner psyche.  I also found here reference to composers whose works explored these same themes, including Haydn and Mozart (he of the "subversive" operas...)  Some thoughts on the music aspects:

It is important to note that this movement was a reaction to French  neoclassism, which was rooted in extreme rationality.  Sturm und Drang was anti-rational, based on stories where the characters were driven to extremes of irrational behavior due to the intensity of emotions and the feeling of being controlled from within, of being in servitude to their emotions instead of being in control of them, which was considered a weakness in polite society.  In this artwork, the artists seemed to be asking if it really WAS irrational to be controlled by emotions --after all, If it comes within us, is it not nature itself speaking, and who are we to question the natural phenomenon and who are we to try to control nature?

This is manifested in the literature of Goethe and Byron of course,and in some of the music of German composers like Haydn and Mozart in the 1770s and 1780's.  Minor tonalities, undulating (stormy) rhythms, drastic changes in tempo and dynamics, tremolos in the strings....all devices aimed at questioning the musical rationality... The musical language was not significantly altered in these pieces -- in effect, the same tools were used, but they were employed in ways that brought darker, more intense expression to the fore.  Both Haydn and Mozart were renowned for the lightheartedness of their compositions, and their experiments departed from this.  It would be a mistake, though, to start thinking of either composer as a Sturm und Drang composer -- only a few of Haydn's symphonies explored these themes, and only one of Mozart's though his operatic themes, and his membership in the Illuminati faction of the Freemasons suggest that he was quite dedicated to the humanist ideals of Rousseau and Diderot.  Still, the conversation was begun.  And with music, as with other disciplines, once the door has opened it will not be closed again.  And when extremely popular composers such as these, both with the nobility and the commoners, engage even hesitantly in the conversation, it lends a legitimacy to the questions being raised.  It also helps that a musician's expression is much more covert than that of authors.  While the authors may be considered fringe for the themes they address, a composer can more easily couch their anti-rational elements in traditional forms and structures that only hint at differences that nevertheless become a part of the audiences perceptions and experience, opening them unconsciously to more overt assaults on their sensibilities.

Listening suggestions:
Haydn Symphonies. 26 (Lamentatione),  49 (La Passione), 44(Mourning), 45 (Farewell)
Mozart Symphony 25

The differences in these pieces from mainstream classical works (even the other works of these composers) are extremely subtle.  But as always, these small steps free those who follow to take more steps, so that Beethoven (who studied with Haydn) and his contemporaries can continue exploring these themes.  Compare Beethoven's works (especially his 3rd "Eroica" symphony and beyond, and you will find more predominant questioning of rationality, more overt forays into the turmoil of inner expression.  His 7th symphony, first movement, is a favorite of mine for his play with tonality and the relentlessly building intensity.

And as to Beethoven's 3rd Symphony:  it was written initially as an homage to Napoleon, as Beethoven was an admirer of the ideals of the French Revolution.  But he was enraged when Napoleon declared himself Emperor of France, and tore up his title page and dedication, dedicating it instead to heroism (eroica").  An interesting aside, yes?......

Freemasonry and Occultism in Napoleonic Egypt

The question of freemasonry and occultism in Napoleonic Egypt came up in class last week (I like a class where this topic can 'come up' in the course of things), so I've done a bit of delving into it and found the tantalizing sources below. I've been wanting to buy the book on the Sophisians for over a year, but it goes for between $40 and $600 used (yeah, that's right). Freemasonry had been simmering closer and closer to the surface throughout the 18th Century, a kind of anti-Enlightenment, and when Napoleon took Egypt for France it was an opportunity for occultists to go crazy with both research and speculation!

The Masonic High Council of Egypt--Like many masonic lodges, this seems to have been 'officially' founded five years ago, but it's history apparently goes back to the eighteenth century... decide for yourself...

A book I cannot afford at present on the Sophisians, an Isis-worshipping, quasi-feminist heretic-freemason group composed of Napoleonic soldiers and egyptologists. They look fascinating... you can get some glimpses here on google books.

review of the book above, with an abbreviated account.

For more on 18th Century occultism, check out Germseed's post of Sept. 7, La Tres Sainte-Trinosophie, and my comment to it.

Voltaire was apparently a member of the Masonic group that the Sophisians indirectly sprang from, as was Cagliostro. And a lot of writing on the Tarot has its roots in this period as well. I've got too many research threads going on at once to follow everything up myself. These are just some starting-points for research--there's a whole lot more to be found on this subject!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Age of Napoleon!

In connection with the Liberté class the Star City Shadow School and Community High School will host the game Age of Napoleon 1805 - 1815, by Renaud Velaque. (Phalanx Games)

Sunday, Sept. 30th from 12:00 to 4:00 pm.

Community High School
302 Campbell Ave. SE
Roanoke VA, 24013

Age of Napoleon is a strategic board game that simulates the Napoleonic wars from the years 1805 to 1815.  It is a two player game.  One side plays the Coalition allies who're tring to force Napoleon's capitulation.  The other side commands the armies of Napoleon's French Empire and their allies as they try to dominate the European continent.

The players use cards representing historical events and figures to influence the game to their advantage.  Pieces on the board represent army core (roughly 40,000 soldiers) and their leaders.  Players maneuver these pieces to defeat enemy armies and capture new territory.

The Plan: We will divide whoever shows up into two groups and we will play in teams.  We could also set up a loose hierarchy: Pitt the Younger, Wellington, Blücher etc. for the Coalition and Napoleon, Louis-Alexandre Berthier, and other ministerial roles for the French.

The instructions say that it takes an hour to play.  Since it will also be my first time running the game (I will play the referee) it may take longer.  If we finish early it might be possible to play a second time and switch up the sides.  It should be a great deal of fun!  We hope to see you there.  Also, costumes are totally encouraged!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Reading #2: On Paris vs. the Provinces, Goethe on Suicide, Chateaubriand & Byron on Melancholy and Evil

Okay, we haven't moved forward much on the readings because the CHS class has been working on the French Revolution, for which they've been using other secondary materials more than the reader. Some people have already started reading ahead, but now let's all take a look at the second reading, pp 25-43, and start exploring related issues!

The first short section on Paris & the Provinces is only a couple pages, the first from Stendhal, the cynical realist and the second from Fourier, the utopian madman. Basically trying to at least briefly introduce a key thing to keep in mind throughout the 19th Century: that Paris was, culturally, almost a separate entity from the rest of France, and was thought of as such by most Parisians and most other French people. While huge numbers of people moved to Paris from the provinces throughout the century, most talk about almost as if they were emigrating. These divisions came into very sharp focus before and after every revolution; Paris was far more to the left politically than most of the country.

The next section tries to begin to indicate what was happening culturally in the rest of Europe, from which France was largely divided for an entire generation, between 1787 and 1815. But while most of Europe was experiencing vast cultural change on an ad-hoc, gradual basis, after the fall of Napoleon all of these developments would pour into France at once, and the generation who grew up during this time would go on to create French Romanticism and eventually revolutionize every aspect of France's cultural life, from poetry to food to history to comedy.

For the first time in Europe, depression, misanthropy and darkness become themes through which to understand culture; how might this have emerged from decades of Revolutionary warfare...

Personally, this is where a lot of the stuff I love first gets introduced: Romanticism, Gothic subculture, and politically motivated literature, all of which will be intertwined to create radical French Romanticism after 1830. (By the way, I’m working right now on putting together the reader that will cover that, and am open for suggestions of things to include in the book for 1827-47.) It was really hard to narrow everything down to a couple texts—at one point or another I’d thought about including work by Scott, Cooper, Ossian, Sterne, Schiller, Klopstock, Novalis, and especially Schlegel. More theory from Mme. De Staël and Stendhal, about recent German and English literature respectively, would have been great too. And I’d have LOVED to have included some English Gothic Fiction—‘Monk’ Lewis, Horace Walpole, Thomas Beckford, Ann Radcliffe for starters….

But one can only justify a little bit of non-French literature in a French culture class. So, I chose the representative of German and English literature who I felt most affected the general cultural milieu of France. We’ll find ourselves often going back to these two guys as we progress into the 19th Century.

Goethe’s range was absolutely huge, and I couldn’t possibly have suggested it all: It would be great if anybody wanted to find some of Goethe’s texts on folklore, metaphysics, optics, aesthetics and colour theory, theology, linguistics, Classical and Romance literature, minerology, alchemy, etc. Etc. His Faust, of course, is awesome; I chose Werther because it was not only a very influential force on French literature—and not only among intellectuals, it was hugely popular in all walks of society—but because it also explores something new (I think) in Western culture: it takes depression, instability, and failure seriously, as ways of understanding the modern condition, and it describes a generation of intellectuals who were attempting to come to grips with the failure of Western Society to live up to its own increasingly idealistic goals.

Byron’s influence was pretty multifaceted too, though his intellectual breadth isn’t as staggering as Goethe’s. Like Goethe, both his work and his influence brought together the intellectual and the popular worlds, and he became a living symbol of Modernity’s growing contradictions. While Goethe helped make depression, misanthropy, and social alienation a recognized cultural response to Europe’s changing culture, Byron went further, and made them cool. Romanticism already had a long relationship with Gothic pulp-fiction and the budding pop-subculture around it, but Byron made himself into a living, breathing character from a Gothic Novel—something that the French Romantics will soon develop even further than him. Byron was a kind proto-rock star foreshadowing Jim Morrison and other celebrities paradoxically living as both social outcasts and popular icons: swarming with inconsistencies and even hypocricies, but also fomenting all kinds of crazy subcultures and movements in his wake.

Chateaubriand was the first French icon that I know of for this kind of epic melancholy, and was often called ‘the French Byron’, though I’m not sure that this is really all that accurate. He’s certainly melancholy, but lacks Byron’s nihilistic undertone, his bravado, and his constant dance-with-the-devil; still closer to Goethe, I feel (insomuch as it’s possible for anyone to be ‘like’ Goethe). Also importantly, he’s a Monarchist who sees himself as a religious poet, as opposed to Byron’s Liberal politics and satanically-tinged skepticism. Until the late 1820s, nascent Romanticism in France was split into Liberal and Conservative wings, who loathed each other; Chateaubriand was the leading figure for the Conservative group. Nor was this just a personal tendency: Chateaubriand will later become one of the most politically powerful men in France, serving as First Minister to King Charles X. When he finally resigns in protest to the King’s suspension of Freedom of the Press, the right-wing element of Romanticism will fall apart, the most prominent among them reconsidering their position and moving toward the Left.

I've tried to find audio recordings of these texts, but no luck. Sorry!!

I can post some potential prompts if people feel it would be helpful, but it seems like it may not really be necessary—it seems like everyone’s getting ideas on their own, so for the moment, feel to spin off any of the readings, people, genres, or themes here that take your fancy!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Contribute to Vol. II of the Reader!

I'm currently working on assembling Vol. II of the Liberté Reader, covering 1825-1845. I'm excited about this one and enjoying it immensely: it will include numerous texts never before printed in English, and have around 100 pages worth of work from the Romanticist avant-garde, early socialist and feminist writing, popular gothic melodrama, etc.

Though I've spent a lot of time with this era, a LOT of this stuff is new research to me, hunting down texts and editing on the fly, in order to start editing the book (a major process) in about two weeks.

So I'm asking for some help--if there are copyright-free translations of things that you'd like to see represented, find an excerpt or two and send it to me. (We can post it on the blog a few weeks later when the class/project is up to it chronologically).

Anything from a couple paragraphs to a few pages can work; the next volume will have a lot of stuff represented in condensed form, rather kaleidoscopic in a way.

I have not yet found enough public-domain texts on Feminism (Tristan Flora is probably one good place to start) or on issues of racial equality; and in relation to politics, though I know I'd like to include texts by Blanqui and Louis Blanc, I haven't yet found or excerpted texts.

Tomislav's already taking on Hugo's Hernani and Gleb Kropotkin.

Here are some books I'd like represented but haven't actually read. Have any of you? What are the most interesting, representative, or awesome parts? For many there are particular reasons that I know they should be represented--but if there are other things happening in the novel that I'm not aware of, please let me know!

  • Victor Hugo, Notre-Dame of Paris. (I'm especially interested in its relation to the effort to preserve the cathedral and Gothic artifacts generally, and in the idea of the Grotesque)
  • Alexandre Dumas & Auguste Maquet, the Three Musketeers or Man in the Iron Mask. (I'm interested in representations of Camaraderie, and also in generally anything that is fun and cool)
  • Balzac, Something from the Human Comedy...

Of course I'm also open to texts (and pictures) I haven't thought of, or haven't heard of. As the project moves forward the textbook itself can become increasingly a group effort.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Mars Disarmed by Venus and the Three Graces: Jaques Louis-David's Final Painting
Title:Mars Disarmed by Venus and the Three Graces 1824
Painted by:Jacques Louis David (1748-1825)
Location:Musées Royaux Des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, Belgium
Dimensions:8.5x10 feet
                The image above is of french artist, Jaques Louis-David's, final masterpiece. He started to paint it in 1822 after becoming severly ill. Three years later, one year after the painting was finished, David was hit by an oncoming carraige on his way out of the theatre. Throught his life and the political ups and downs of France, David has painted heroic scenes of Greek and Roman figures triumphing over their foes. This painting, however, depicts a situation opposite to David's previous work.
               The painting depicts Mars (the Roman God of war) being charmed by Venus (the Roman Goddess of beauty and love) and the Three Graces. Cupid is at the bottom of the picture, untying the sandal on Mars' foot, his golden arrow placed beside him. However, hesitation is shown in the image of Venus pausing before placing the crown of thorns on Mars' head. In many of Davids previous paintings, such as the Oath of the Horattii, the characters are in tense in stiff positions, to show strenght and make them look statuesque. However, in Mars Disarmed by Venus and the Three Graces, Mars holds a relaxed position, which shows comfort and not strength.
               Once the Bourbons had returned to power in 1814, David was in danger because of his previous pro-revolutionary attitude, pro-Napoleon views, vote for the execution of Louis XVI and the death of Louis XVII. However, Louis XVIII did not hold a grudge against David, but in fact offered him a job as the official court painter. David declined due to the fact that he would rather declare self exile in Brussels than work for the King.
               One thing for sure is that David was positive when he made the concious decision that this would be his final painting. Before applying brush to canvas, it is reported that David stated "This is the last picture I want to paint, but I want to surpass myself in it. I will put the date of my seventy-five years on it and afterwards I will never again pick up my brush." Some believe that David chose this painting as a refection on  his having been "seduced by false idols". Or perhaps the painting could represent David's views of France itself transforming from a strong and powerful nation to a state of weakness and naiviity. Maybe the painting was not even inteded to be political but soley about the myth it is centered around as David's effort to swing back to his interest in the ancient world. How do you interperet the painting in accordance with Jaques Louis-David's life? Comment and tell me! I'm curious to know what you all think!
-Celine (CHS Student)
"Mars Disarmed by Venus and the Three Graces 1824." Jacques Louis David. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Sept. 2012.
"Jacques Louis David Biography." Jacques Louis David Biography. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Sept.
"Jacques-Louis David: The Roman Revolution." Jacques-Louis David: The Roman Revolution. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Sept. 2012. <>.
"Web Gallery of Art, Image Collection, Virtual Museum, Searchable Database of European Fine Arts (1000-1850)." Web Gallery of Art, Image Collection, Virtual Museum, Searchable Database of European Fine Arts (1000-1850). N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Sept. 2012. <>.


1. I decided to post the first paragraphes of the essay "YET ANOTHER EFFORT, FRENCHMEN, IF YOU WOULD BECOME REPUBLICANS" by Marquis de Sade. It's included into his scandalous novel "Philosophy in the Bedroom" but in the times of the Revolution is was published as a single pamphlet and, as far as I know, it was very popular (BTW maybe somebody have more precise information about the impact of this text on the revolutionary France than I have?). I think it could add another dimension to the first reading.

"I am about to put forward some major ideas; they will be heard and pondered. If not all of them please, surely a few will; in some sort, then, I shall have contributed to the progress of our age, and shall be content. We near our goal, but haltingly: I confess that I am disturbed by the presentiment that we are on the eve of failing once again to arrive there. Is it thought that goal will be attained when at last we have been given laws? Abandon the notion; for what should we, who have no religion, do with laws? We must have a creed, a creed befitting the republican character, something far removed from ever being able to resume the worship of Rome. In this age, when we are convinced that morals must be the basis of religion, and not religion of morals, we need a body of beliefs in keeping with our customs and habits, something that would be their necessary consequence, and that could, by lifting up the spirit, maintain it perpetually at the high level of this
precious liberty, which today the spirit has made its unique idol.
Well, I ask, is it thinkable that the doctrine of one of Titus' slaves, of a clumsy histrionic from Judea, be fitting to a free and warlike nation that has just regenerated itself? No, my fellow countrymen, no; you think nothing of the sort. If, to his misfortune, the Frenchman were to entomb himself in the grave of Christianity, then on one side the priests' pride, their tyranny, their despotism, vices forever cropping up in that impure horde, on the other side the baseness, the narrowness, the platitudes of dogma and mystery of this infamous and fabulous religion, would, by blunting the fine edge of the republican spirit, rapidly put about the Frenchman's neck the yoke which his vitality but yesterday shattered.
Let us not lose sight of the fact this puerile religion was among our tyrants' best weapons: one of its key dogmas was to render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's. However, we have dethroned Caesar, we are no longer disposed to render him anything. Frenchmen, it would be in vain were you to suppose that your oath-taking clergy today is in any essential manner different from yesterday's non-juring clergy: there are inherent vices beyond all possibility of correction. Before ten years are out—utilizing the Christian religion, its superstitions, its prejudices—your priests, their pledges notwithstanding and though despoiled of their riches, are sure to reassert their empire over the souls they shall have undermined and captured; they shall restore the monarchy, because the power of kings has always reinforced that of the church; and your republican edifice, its foundations eaten away, shall collapse".

The full text of essay can be found here (PDF) starting from p. 91.

2. Couple of days ago I've come across the book by Peter Kropotkin "The great French revolution". I haven't read it yet but I think it could be interesting to compare Kropotkin's anarchistic point of view with other perceptions of the Revolution.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Print Resources for 1750-1800

Here are the physical books I've used for my research on the period covered so far, i.e. the Enlightenment and Revolution. This 18th Century stuff has not been my main area of research so far so I don't have as many resources as for the rest of the course. If you're in Roanoke, feel free to let me know if you want to take a look at any of these, for your own research or simply curiosity. I'll post more resources as we move forward!

A few of these are 100 to 200 year old books from my own archive of 19th Century Counter-Cultures. Most of these books are in French, and their research value will vary if you don't read French. But they are very tangible touchstones with the human reality of the period, and may be suggestive for research in terms of images, names for further research, and many other clues.


Swedenborg, Emanuel & George F. Dole, Trans. Heaven and Its Wonders and Hell: Drawn From Things Heard & Seen. (2000) West Chester, PA: The Swedenborg Foundation. (Original publication 1758)

Jacob, Bibliophile (Paul Lacroix) & Theodore W. Koch, Trans. My Republic: In Which are Narrated the Adventures of a Bibliophile During the French Revolution and the Part Played Therein by a Rare Book. (1936) Chicago: The Caxton Club. (Original Publication 1861)

Racine, Jean & Richard Wilbur, trans. Phaedra: A Tragedy in Five Acts. (1986) NNew York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. (Original Publication 1677)


de Beauvoir, Roger. Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges. 2nd Ed. (1840) Paris: H.-L. Delloye. Four Volumes.

Claretie, Jules. Camille Desmoulins, Lucile Desmoulins: étude sur les Dantonistes, d'après des documents nouveaux et inédits. (1875) Paris: E. Plon et Cie.

de Parny, Évariste. Oeuvres de Parny: elégies et poesies diverses. Preface by Sainte-Beuve. (1862) Paris: Garnier Frères.


General History:

Breunig, Charles. The Age of Revolution and Reaction, 1789-1850. 2nd Ed. (1977) New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

Doyle, William. The Oxford History of the French Revolution. (1990) Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Cultural & Intellectual History:

Bénichou, Paul & Mark K. Jensen, trans. The Consecration of the Writer, 1750-1830. (1999) Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.

Langer, William L., ed. Perspectives in Western Civilization: Essays from 'Horizon'. Vol. 2. (1972) New York: American Heritage.

Shiner, Larry. The Invention of Art: A Cultural History. (2002) Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Stearns, Peter N., ed. The Other Side of Western Civilization: Readings in Everyday Life. Vol. II: The Sixteenth Century to the Present. (1973) New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

Stromberg, Roland N. European Intellectual History Since 1789. 2nd Ed. (1975) Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Art & Architecture:

Detroit Institute of Arts. The Age of Revolution: French Painting 1774-1830. (1975) Detroit: Wayne State University.

Toman, Rolf, ed. Neoclassicism and Romaticism: Architecture, Sculpture, Painting, Drawing 1750-1848. (2006) H.F. Ullmann.

Bennett hacks up Byron!

Here are the two poems John M. Bennett posted below, based on the Byron passages from the Liberté reader, WITH the line-breaks preserved:

Olvido de Byron

Olvido de Lara

Any hints on the process of how these were derived, John? (Or any guesses, anybody else?)

Sunday, September 9, 2012

TWO POEMS BASED ON BYRON'S PASSAGES IN THE LIBERTÉ TEXTBOOK Olvido de Byron “For in it lurks...”, Lord Byron, The Giaour, 1813 nod focused lint on cliff he belts the scorned bloody hand the truly apeish smell invisible to all but him scurrilous nape dancing with lice’s grave flash of’s unearthly wave’s my ass pyration cornered in the much of times the glancer f lopping in my trousers ah nameless spell !the gazer slept unspeakable and claims the bird the sock puppet met alone ,your pale lip blister ghastly quivers !yr swallowed birth dou bles in that spitting doom yr dribbling features vulgar in the wading gloom ¡Quítate los lentes! - Ramón López Velarde olvido de Lara lumpy ,his name forgot ,dan dled ashes on’s pate while the others prate their hidden lot gated with a smoky door his silence blears against the walking world’s hot mud his mirror his fleshly worm clogged those thrashing hoses on his path bedecked with stopsigns ,ladders ,c loud giggling of that secret glass that blood passed outside what oval time did start a swarm of gnats bedecked his skull a separate head rotting off’s offending throne “His madness was...sought...” -Lord Byron, Lara, 1814

Friday, September 7, 2012

La Très Sainte Trinosophie

The Count de Saint-Germain is an interesting character, along with this 18th c. occult tome. 

i arrived via this post and the relevant links are in there along with context, to save re-writing.

 BibliOdyssey is well worth a good look around for other little gems like this

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Links for CHS Students, and a Great Start!

Thanks to everyone who's posted already, we're off to a great start!
I still need to check out the links from Germseed's and Terri's post, I'll comment on them soon--internet access is dodgy at my place so it may be tomorrow.
In the meantime, the CHS class met for the first time yesterday--it's a great group of students and should be an exciting class! I'm posting/reposting a few links that the students there may find particularly helpful:
  • HERE are two passages from the Roman historian Livy, which are the inspirations for two of the Jacques-Louis David paintings in the current reading, The Oath of the Horatii (p. 9 of the reader--this painting is in the museum in Toledo, OH by the way) and The Intervention of the Sabine Women (p. 23). They're pretty brutal. This is assigned reading for CHS students. Colour & larger resolution images are in the PDF version of the reader and on wikipedia.
  • A TIMELINE of the French Revolution, dug up by Germseed. There was a coup d'etat nearly every year, so this will be very handy. (This covers the lead-up to the revolution, click at the bottom and it continues for the whole thing)
  • A GLOSSARY of terms & symbols of the French Revolution, found for us by Imogene Engine. The texts in the reader haven't been annotated (yet!), so this will be helpful to refer to as you move through the text--even after the Revolution, people keep referring to its symbols and terminology throughout the entire 19th century.
Again, it's really exciting to see so many avenues opened up in the first couple days of the project, thanks!
And don't forget to check the comments to posts too--both of the links above were suggested in comments, and Imogene has a great collection of links on feminism during the Revolution.
Vive le Révolution!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

It is interesting to consider how the artists of the day so often seem to instinctively have a feel for the pulse of the society, and integrate these into their arts.  There is a sort of symbiosis that occurs, wherein the artist needs society to drive his art, while the art produced not only reflects, but subtly affects the society and its progress.  It is a piece of the phenomenon so aptly discussed in "The Ecstatic Nerve" (Lindsann).

In pre-revolutionary France, Mozart was an example of this.  He was always on the fringe of "good" society -- he was wild, free-wheeling, temperamental, impulsive, he was even rumored to be a Freemason!  Mozart, already an immensely popular composer of opera, which was at the time an entertainment for the masses as well as the rich and powerful, used his operas "The Marriage of Figaro" and "Don Giovanni" not only to reflect the temperature of the society that was building toward the Revolution, but also brought those feelings and attitudes closer to the surface.  Art like his served as a part of the heating process that brought revolutionary impulses from a low simmer closer to the boiling point.

I have found a wonderful discussion of Mozart and the French Revolution here.  The operas discussed are wonderful -- on the surface and in today's light, they seem merely playful, devious and stories of the kind of rebellion our culture applauds.  Put in the context of history, however, this music takes on new meanings and a bit of foreshadowing.  The article  discusses mostly the libretto, but listening to the music in contrast to other composers of the day one realizes that the same themes addressed in the libretto are also addressed by musical techniques, use of motives and variations, tonalities, and instrumentation.  This is perhaps the explanation for the extreme popularity of Mozart.  It was highly unusual for the court musicians to be truly beloved by the common people, but Mozart accomplished that -- perhaps because he was able to use his music to support what the common people were feeling while still composing music sufficiently "high-brow" to appeal to his patrons.  Maybe the Genius of Mozart extended far beyond the elements of music?

an idea on sound?

I've been wondering about the folk music of the time, the music we may have heard more freely (music made by and for non ruling class types). I admit now that I know little, and I'm searching here so feel free to correct me on any of this. One port of call is the Musette.

A curious little animal of an instrument (indeed, a bagpipe), many countries have them in one form or another. There are different types with different pitches and tunings.

There's a 9 minute video of a man giving a presentation on one here. Although we can't always hear what he's saying, it's something of an overview and we get a sense of the sound. An additional sense of that sound can be found here with replica instruments.

At the risk of appearing dry, here are a couple of links concerning the history of concert pitch and standardised tuning. From this second link:

Sir John Hawkins, writing in 1776, tells us that the tuning fork, originally called the 'pitch-fork', was invented in 1711, by John Shore, a trumpeter in the band of Queen Anne. It provided the first and, until the advent of electronic meters, the most trustworthy pitch-carrier, and was in every way superior to the 'pitch-pipe' about which the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778), writing in 1764, noted "the impossibility of being certain of the same sound in two places at the same time".

Some Less-Beaten Paths...

Here's a rather random assortment of links to stuff I wish I'd have had room for / time to prepare for the Reader:

  • I've just recently discovered one fascinating figure from the Revolutionary period: the mulatto composer and soldier, the Chevalier de Saint-Georges, known as 'The Black Mozart'. I discovered him through a four-volume biographical novel on him by the avant-gardist Roger de Beauvoir, the 1840 edition of which I just bought for my 19th Century Counter-Culture archive. Sadly it's in French, so my comprehension is pretty limited. It seems that someone is attempting to make a movie about him; not sure how that'll turn out, but there's a decent biography and some of his music (I'm trying to find more) HERE. (so far I can't find any free downloads)
  • We think of Rousseau now mainly as philosopher and novelist, but he considered himself a musician and musicologist first and foremost, and he did have a real effect on Romanticist music. I'm having trouble finding free recordings of his music, but HERE is a piece that Beethoven wrote using themes from Rousseau's one-act opera, Le Devin du Village. (Maybe some of our musicians can help us understand it a bit more?)
  • On the other hand, people on the left didn't agree with Rousseau on everything. The British feminist Mary Wollstonecraft (mother Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley) took severe issue with Rousseau's ideas on femininity and pedagogy in her seminal book A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, published in 1792, just before she moved to Paris to witness the Revolutionary government at first hand.. I've hastily cobbled together a few of her arguments against Rousseau HERE
  • The Romantics often talk about the poet & satirist Évariste de Parny as a precursor; but I can't find any translations (though I own an 1862 edition edited by the Romanticist critic Saint-Beuve)...
ALSO: for those who have an easier time listening than reading, HERE are free audiobook files of Rousseau's Social Contract. I haven't managed to find audio files on the other two texts from this reading. If there are good sites for finding free audio books and/or free classical/orchestral music recordings, let me know and I'll add them to the links tab on the right. Internet Archive has a fair number under the 'audio' tab.

Music is one thing we really regret not being able to adequately cover in the 'official' syllabus, and any postings on it will be very welcome!

This weekend I'm planning on putting together an album of Classicist painting, sculpture, and architecture. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

les Arenes

Disorganized responses-

This is the first time I've read anything by Rousseau in ten years.
I'm not sure I understand what he means by 'alienated...'  between the influences of marxism and the x-files, I am a bit confused.  Perhaps that all persons are equally alienated from the resources of community, i.e. no single person has privileged access over others?  In this case, society is built on reciprocal compromise from all parties. 
If that is what he means, then how can property be an inalienable right, considering that property is one thing that creates the circumstances of inequality in the first place?    

Also, a general interest - towards the end of the 19th, excavations within Paris began to reveal some of the oldest architecture in the city, for instance, les Arenes de Lutece, which was a 1st - 3rd century Roman ampitheatre that existed only in stories until it was rediscovered by somebody who was trying to build a tramway:  (  Characters such as Victor Hugo led a cultural movement to preserve these sites, which otherwise may have been destroyed for the sake of developement.  Hugo, I believe, was also involved in the recuperation of Notre Dame...anyway I'm interested in the considerable influence artists such as Hugo were able to have in terms of recuperating the remains of the gothic and classical.  

Reading #1: Response Prompts, Gaps, and Errata


Thanks to Tomislav for pointing out the first mistake/typo of the reader--it mentions that the Declaration of the Rights of Man is partially based on the U.S. Constitution; it should have said the Declaration of Independence (as it does in the blog post, which tipped Tom off). The Constitution was being being written concurrently with the Rights of Man.

Gaps in the Reading:

There's a lot I wish I could have included, but couldn't due to various combinations of a short deadline for preparing the book, limited public-domain resources in translation, and space considerations. Some of them:

I already really regret not having included any Voltaire, in dialogue with Rousseau. Had I more time, I would have found something appropriate from Candide, and maybe Zadig as well; and some entries from the Encyclopedie would have been very nice too. Some representation from Diderot would have rounded it out nicely.

I'd have liked to have included Everiste de Parny, who I suspect would be interesting to compare to Béranger (coming up in Reading #6); I haven't had a chance to look into him as much as I'd like, though I know John M. Bennett has been checking him out lately…

There also ought to be more Classicist paintings (there will be a few more in Vol. 2). I'm going to try to assemble an online album of Classicist painting this week and post it to the blog. Music, too, is something that could not be fit into the curriculum as a regular presence but which I would love to explore here.

In addition, there is little in the anthology dealing directly with the history of the Revolution, which Brian will be covering with the CHS students through a combination of lecture, independent research and presentations. Here's the obvious first place to look.

A few potential prompts for somebody to take up if you'd like (or just do/respond to whatever else grabs your interest):
  • Locate a passage or two from Voltaire and/or Diderot that creates a dialogue of similarities and differences from the Rousseau.
  • Share a few entries from the Encyclopedie (Voltaire's contributions can found here).
  • Locate a passage or two from other texts by Rousseau that are not in the reader, and shed light on some other aspect of his thought.
  • Compare some points of the 1st and 2nd Declaration of the Rights of Man, or those documents and the U.S. Declaration of Independence.
  • Compare the Declaration of the Rights of Man to Olympe de Gouges' 1791 feminist response, Declaration of the Rights of Woman
  • Find or assemble a basic timeline of the French Revolution.
  • Locate a few sources regarding any topic that you're interested in, and their state prior to the Revolution (popular culture, music, linguistics, occultism, technology, etc. etc.)
  • Share a resource or your own knowledge regarding pre-Revolutionary politics, religion, science, feminism, abolition, decadence, etc.
  • Post several poems, or several pieces of music, or several paintings or sculptures, or several architectural projects produced between 1750 and 1789.
  • Discover and share a resource concerning a little-known Person, Group, or Subculture of the 18th Century.
  • Post one or more question or suggestion for further research that the rest of us may be able to help answer.
Post these as comments or as your own posts as you see fit (and let me know if you have technical trouble doing so). Probably comments will work best if you're responding directly to a text from the reader, and a new post if you're presenting a new resource to discuss.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Reading #1: Rousseau on Civil Rights, Gautier on the Paintings of David, and The Declaration of the Rights of Man

The readings for the Shadow School project from the Reader (free download to the right of the page) are optional. Their function is to parallel the required reading for the Community High School class, and to provide a common jumping-off point for wherever the conversations on this blog might go.

The readings for this first week dip back into the 18th Century to indicate some intellectual origins of the Revolution, and are from Rousseau's Social Contract, the Declaration of the Rights of Man, and Gautier discussing the painter David.

The readings from Rousseau concentrate on his ideas concerning sovereignty and the state, since this is such a guiding theme to the history of the 19th Century. Rousseau's influence was huge and very multifaceted, and we've only been able to touch upon that one theme in the Reader. Other aspects of his influence are his ideas on reason and sentiment, on 'Natural' Language and his linguistic studies, on pedagogy, and his influence on music, drama, and the novel.

The Declaration of the Rights of Man is largely modeled after the American Declaration of Independence, but it's interesting to note the differences in light of the French's lack of any living democratic tradition, the strength of the aristocracy and the Catholic Church, and the closer influence of Rousseau than Thomas Paine (though both were highly influential in both countries). For instance from the first article: "Social distinctions may be founded only upon the common good." No fundamental condemnation of aristocracy was politically feasible even in the revolutionary atmosphere at this stage, just a weakening of it; in fact, class was scarcely an issue in the American Revolution, while it would remain the major cause of instability in France for the whole century. It would be interesting to compare the original 1789 version (the one included in the reading) to the more radical, re-written version of 1793, on the eve of the Terror.

I had trouble finding a public domain text about Jacques-Louis David that I liked. Like him or hate him, David was pretty damned interesting, and largely responsible for the politicization and intellectual aspect of 'The Arts' that came after him. One thing I'd like to find more on is David's role in the Revolutionary government; he wielded considerable power during the Terror. Not surprisingly, this aspect of his activity got swept under the rug by 'art history' pretty quickly (after saving his head by supporting Napoleon), and Gautier in particular is never in a hurry to talk about politics...

Sunday, September 2, 2012

And we're off!

Okay, let's do this!

The CHS Liberté class begins this Wednesday, the 5th, so we're officially taking off with the Shadow School project now! We will continue until May, and then take stock of what the project has become and begin assembling the book/s that will be compiled from what we have done.

As explained in the introductory post below, the goals for this project are not preset, and will emerge from everybody's participation. So this first few weeks we can all communicate and experiment with what we would like to get out of it, and what we can contribute.

As a basis of shared reading, early each week I will make a post relating to a reading from the textbook (see the free PDF link to the right), and linking to additional material. These readings are not "required" obviously, but are co-ordinated with the assigned readings for the CHS course. Later in each week, I'll post other materials, links, questions, thoughts, images, sound files, or whatever else.

If you haven't yet, hit "join this site" to the right under "project collaborators", and as soon as I see you've joined the project I'll make you an administrator so that you can post, comment etc. 

I'll post about the initial reading (pp. 11-24) tomorrow (Monday). Let's all try posting responses to that reading; related images, texts, etc. that we'd like to share with each other, questions that others may have answers to, and whatever else we think of--experiment with what we can do with this blog.

Especially in these initial weeks, it would also be good to post about our various goals, interests, and thoughts for the project itself; and I'd appreciate any advice or comments regarding how to make this blog more usable and helpful.

Thanks for taking part!