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Paris, myth and demystification: Poetic and political hermeneutics in post-revolutionary France.

Smart, A.J.H.; (2007) Paris, myth and demystification: Poetic and political hermeneutics in post-revolutionary France. Doctoral thesis , University of London. Green open access

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Abstract

Numbers in square brackets refer to chapters: This dissertation studies the relation between myth and demystification in post-revolutionary France, notably in the literary depiction of Paris. I argue that, in this period, the functions of myth in society were being redefined by literature in the light of a new, 'secularised' conception of the sacred. I begin by focusing on the social functions of myth (maintaining social cohesion and identity), particularly through the constitution of 'collective memory' I also examine the downside of this need for social cohesion: alienation [1]. I then look at the framework of modern myth-making that combines poetics, politics, history and myth. I show how new forms of the sacred emerged in the century of rationalism and disenchantment, and how Michelet in particular contributed greatly to the construction of the myth of 1789 [2]. For it is indeed 1789 that explains Paris's unique status. I am focusing on Hugo in this regard to understand the sacralisation of Paris as the capital of the revolution [3]. Hugo also illustrates a general tendency in the post-revolutionary depiction of Paris: its darkness and claustrophobia seem to illustrate the condition of modern man [4]. But beyond a material glance at the city, Hugo's vision sends a more disturbing message: in exile, the poet-seer redefines the march of history and offers new means of demystification [5]. This analysis then extends to looking at Hugo's central character, the People, and its difference from the equally mythical populace. In fact the confusion between the two will lead to the end of Paris as a myth, which coincides with the Commune and the debacle of Paris [6]. That ultimate defeat will prompt Hugo to go back and seek the origins of modern France, focusing this time on 1793 in a last attempt to oppose the seer's parole to that of the state, with the very definition of the republic at stake [7].

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Paris, myth and demystification: Poetic and political hermeneutics in post-revolutionary France.
Identifier: PQ ETD:591381
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > SELCS
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1444079
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