The Romantic and Realist eras were sharply differentiated in terms of style and content of art. Yet, they are united in being born as reactions to styles precedent to theirs. Romanticism, for example was born as a reaction to the rational-scientific emphasis of the Age of the Enlightenment. Where Romantic art differed from scientific disposition is in its novel approach to creation. While science seeks to “explain what exists, art seeks to create something new—but something that bears a distinct relationship to what exists.” (Benton & Diyanni 2011) Likewise, the Realist era was inspired by the perceived excesses of the Romantic style. It is not for us to judge if one stylistic movement is superior to the other. They both sprung from a natural artistic longing for novelty and experimentation. It is fair to say that Western civilization is richer for these periodic upheavals in art. Both Romanticism and Realism showcased different sets of tendencies and aspirations in art . . . Read More
Michel Houellebecq has the distinction of being the best known contemporary French litterateur across the globe. Houellebecq had never hesitated to call a spade a spade in his works of art, be it his novels or poems. The latest offering Serotonin is almost prophetic in that it deals with a phenomenon in France that is topical at the time of release of the book. We are talking about the Yellow Vest protests that have rocked France towards the end of 2018. Houellebecq could not have anticipated such events unfolding so as to coincide with the release of the book. But the fact of this coincidence nevertheless gives more context and urgency to the central themes of the book. The decision by the author to not give interviews or have media interactions in the lead up to the publication has heightened intrigue among French literature aficionados as well as followers across the rest of the world. The French government’s bestowing of Legion d’honneur (the . . . Read More
Pan-European revolutions of 1830 manifested in different forms in different regions. In Netherlands and France they took a romantic hue, whereas in Poland and Switzerland the impact on the political establishment was less pronounced. In the United Kingdom of Netherlands and in France, the impact of the revolution was to establish constitutional monarchies (also called commonly as ‘popular monarchies’). This meant that the older aristocratic order was dismantled and republicanism was given a new thrust. For example, prior to the revolution, the king held dominion over his country through the mandate of God. His reference as the King of France testified this fact. But after the revolution, his title was changed to King of the French, indicating how his authority is derived from the collective will of the citizens. Likewise, in Belgium, King Leopold I took to the throne under the reconfigured political arrangement. At the same time in Congress Poland the revolt against the . . . Read More
Leila Marouane’s «La Jeune Fille et la Mere» is a thought provoking novel. Based on the author’s own experiences as an Algerian-French national, the novel is history, autobiography and fiction all at once. It is also a post-colonial work, in that the young girl Djamila’s dilemmas and conflicts are similar to her newly independent nation’s own struggles with identity and choice.
One of the struggles for the mother is with male domination. Even in fundamental questions of choosing a partner or choosing sexual lifestyle, women have little choice in Algeria. Worse, they are sometimes forced into abusive sexual relations and even prostitution. Frequent unwanted pregnancies and abortions are not uncommon. If this blatant abuse of women’s rights were to happen in France it would provoke an outrage. But in the patriarchal social milieu of Algeria, these events go on as a matter of routine. Author Marouane seems to be suggesting that nominal political freedom has no benign . . . Read More
Thesis: Charles Baudelaire expanded subject matter and vocabulary in French poetry, writing about topics previously considered taboo and using language considered too coarse for poetry. Analyzing To the Reader makes a case for why Baudelaire’s subject matter and language choice belong in poetry.
Any work of art that attracts controversy is also likely to be interesting. This can certainly be said of Charles Baudelaire’s Fleurs Du Mal (Flowers of Evil), of which Au Lecteur (To the Reader) serves as a preface. There are many reasons why I would recommend Au Lecteur to you. The utilization of sharp sensory imagery, deliberation of topics considered taboo and a freestyle choice of vocabulary are major attractions in the poem. But instead of detracting from the value of poetry, these facets of his art only enhance its appeal. Through the rest of the letter I hope to convince you of this, my friend.
Having known you for many years . . . Read More
In the excerpt Towards a Definition of Film Noir, authors Raymond Borde and Etienne Chaumeton address the problem of defining film noir. The main issue is the diversity and interrelationships across genres that make the task daunting. While the term film noir may have been coined by influential critics in France, the birthplace of the genre is Hollywood. Many adjectives come to mind when thinking of film noir, but any given film can contain any permutation of these qualities. For example, qualities such as night-marish, weird, erotic, cruel or ambivalent can readily be associated with the genre. Yet this list is not exhaustive. Thrillers such as This Gun for Hire, The Big Sleep and The Lady in the Lake are as much part of the genre as are the more experimental Call Northshid 777, The House on the 92nd Street and The Naked City. Whatmore, compounding the problem of definition of film noir are the various renowned directors who have embraced the genre. Household names like Billy . . . Read More
The Second World War was a pivotal event not just for Britain but also for the rest of Europe. In the wake of the end of the war all art forms embraced questions about war in particular and human conflict in general. One of the important British films to emerge in the Second World War milieu was The Battle of the River Plate. Though the film is largely drawn from real historical events surrounding the war, it is a feature film and meant for entertainment. Though the story is broadly consistent with historical record, the dialogues were almost nearly invented. The challenge for the film maker venturing the world war genre is the upkeep of historicity. The British audience has always allowed a fair license for fiction in the genre for the imperatives of the narrative form. Even allowing room for fiction, the ultimate success depends on the degree of authenticity that the filmmaker could bring to his representation of real history. It is for this reason that critics were . . . Read More
Despite no authentic version of the play extant, Christopher Marlowe’s play Massacre at Paris continues to be of importance. The play is heavily drawn from real historical events happening in French politics at the time of it being written. The Massacre at Paris that was unleashed by the Third Duke of Guise upon all his suspected enemies is both brutal and real. Marlowe portrays Guise as a thorough Machiavellian character who is bent upon usurping power through any means. The killing of his father Francis when he was just 13 is a key event in the development of Guise’ personality. Facing this calamity at a tender age impresses in his mind the motivations for revenge. This would later transpire into a more generic blood and power lust. His immediate ascension to throne after his father’s premature death forced Guise to mature very fast. His chief nemesis would be Henry of Navarre, who is an able and imaginative administrator.
Marlowe devotes so much more . . . Read More
Geopolitical equations toward the end of the 19th century were as complex as it was fragile. The two broad groupings were the Triple Entente and the Triple Alliance. These two distinct groupings came into existence in 1882 and lasted till the First World War. But even among alliance partners, there were conflicts of interest and opposition, creating a sense of propensity for military conflict. The Triple Alliance consisted of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy. The Triple Entente consisted of Great Britain, France and Russia. Taken in unity, the two groups had formidable economic and military power at their disposal.
During the time of the Triple Entente, Great Britain was the most powerful empire in the world. British colonies existed in every corner of the world and there was no other empire which could boast of the proficiency and reach of the British Navy. The British economy was flourishing during the late 19th century and it had . . . Read More
There are many causes that led to the First World War, but the assassination of the monarch of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (Archduke Franz Ferdinand) acted as a trigger in destabilizing what was then a delicate state of European political balance. A combination of unfortunate timing of the assassination alongside the growing internal tension among European powers gave vent in the form of a war on a massive scale. Alongside these factors, the rise of nationalistic fervor in some European nations, with the attendant tendencies toward imperialism and militarism had made the outbreak of the war inevitable. (Stubbs, 2002)
The rise of Pan-Slavism, which is a form of ethno-nationalism, in Eastern European countries had also precipitated the war. The strong diplomatic, economic and strategic interests in neighboring countries induced a cascade effect in terms of drawing reluctant participants to the war. The Great War was characterized by the long periods spent by the armed . . . Read More