Handbook of French Popular Culture

Handbook of French Popular Culture

Handbook of French Popular Culture

Handbook of French Popular Culture

Synopsis

This book presents a series of highly readable, well-documented essays describing French life styles, attitudes, and entertainments as well as the writers and performers currently favored by the French public. Several chapters explore French tastes in popular literature and other reading matter, including comics, cartoons, mystery and spy fiction, newspapers and magazines, and science fiction. Film, popular music, radio, and television are also discussed in detail, and influences from other cultures--particularly American "imports"--are assessed. The remaining essays examine French sports, leisure, eating and drinking, and relations between men and women.

Excerpt

Even before there was a recognized French language, let alone an official nation, mass popular culture flourished and continued flourishing, right alongside eventually world-renowned literature, music, and fine arts. From images on the walls of the Lascaux caves to juggling and clowning at medieval fairs to modern comics and television, the general public has always preferred popular activities, in and by which it sees itself reflected, entertained, and informed. Popular culture practitioners have responded to this demand with unparalleled success, and their audiences (either active or passive) have greatly benefited from an abundance of popular manifestations, as the following chapters clearly demonstrate.

That a dichotomy existed--and to some extent still exists--between so-called "high" and "low" culture is an accepted fact. From "nos ancêtres les Gaulois" to the good burghers of Louis XIV to the cadres of the Fifth Republic (not to mention the working classes), it quickly came to light, however, that only a very small elite partook of high culture. Not only was the majority functionally illiterate until the 1880s, when Jules Ferry's reforms were passed making elementary schooling free and mandatory, but those who had received an education read popular--and popularizing--books, not the Classics, and attended low- brow stage entertainment, not the opera or the tragedies of Racine. The top best sellers, for instance, all belong to popular literature: the fairy tales of Charles Perrault, the science fiction of Jules Verne, and the Maigret novels of Georges Simenon.

Thanks to the approach taken by the Annales school of historians, led by the late Fernand Braudel (whose Volume One of his last magnum opus [1979] is titled Les Structures du quotidien), a renewed interest in daily life developed as the contemporary French sought to know and understand how their predecessors actually lived. Various sociohistorical book series covering, albeit superficially . . .

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