The Cult of the Modern: Trans-Mediterranean France and the Construction of French Modernity

The Cult of the Modern: Trans-Mediterranean France and the Construction of French Modernity

The Cult of the Modern: Trans-Mediterranean France and the Construction of French Modernity

The Cult of the Modern: Trans-Mediterranean France and the Construction of French Modernity

Synopsis

The Cult of the Modern focuses on nineteenth-century France and Algeria and examines the role that ideas of modernity and modernization played in both national and colonial programs during the years of the Second Empire and the early Third Republic. Gavin Murray-Miller rethinks the subject by examining the idiomatic use of modernity in French cultural and political discourse. The Cult of the Modern argues that the modern French republic is a product of nineteenth-century colonialism rather than a creation of the Enlightenment or the French Revolution. This analysis contests the predominant Parisian and metropolitan contexts that have traditionally framed French modernity studies, noting the important role that colonial Algeria and the administration of Muslim subjects played in shaping understandings of modern identity and governance among nineteenth-century politicians and intellectuals.

In synthesizing the narratives of continental France and colonial North Africa, Murray-Miller proposes a new framework for nineteenth-century French political and cultural history, bringing into sharp relief the diverse ways in which the French nation was imagined and represented throughout the country's turbulent postrevolutionary history, as well as the implications for prevailing understandings of France today.

Excerpt

Residing in the French capital briefly during the early nineteenth century, the German writer Friedrich von Schlegel found Paris obsessed with what he described as “the fantastic caprice of ever-varying fashion.” More than simply a critique on the lifestyles and tastes of Parisian society under Napoleon I, Schlegel’s remark was a judgment on the French Revolution itself. the social and political transformations wrought by France’s revolutionary experience in the late eighteenth century had, he believed, brought about a corresponding change in the sentiments and perspective of the country, commencing a period in which interests, just as much as politics, were subject to “the hasty revolutions of the fleeting day.” in Schlegel’s estimation, the French suffered from an acute cultural amnesia as contemporary and momentary trends now took precedence over the historical and permanent, and this denouement was, he contended, a direct result of the political turmoil and upset that had radically transformed conventional understandings of time and society in the wake of the Revolution.

Although Schlegel’s insights may have possessed a detached and analytical quality common to a foreigner’s encounter with a society different from his own, such interpretations were certainly not lost on French observers. Over a half century after Schlegel’s Parisian sojourn, the critic and philosopher Hippolyte Taine readily agreed with the observations made by the German intellectual. the French public interminably clamored for the “new, salient, and unexpected,” he complained, while treating the past with disregard and boredom. What was true of fashion was . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.