Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Joan of Arc and Sacrificial Authorship

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Joan of Arc and Sacrificial Authorship

Article excerpt

Ann W. Astell, Joan of Arc and Sacrificial Authorship (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 2003). 283 pp. ISBN 0-268-03259-9, 855.00 (hard covers); ISBN 0-268-03260-2. £25.00 (p/b).

Worshippers of the Maid, be warned: Ann Astell's book is less concerned with the saint who illustrates the cover than with the poets whose suffering souls are mirrored in hers. An emblem of sacrifice, Joan stands for a long line of authors who inflicted upon her the various tortures, sense of isolation, guilt, victimized innocence they were labouring under: 'modern authors seek to avoid being scapegoated themselves either by sacrificing others or by modeling a refusal of sacrifice' (p. 5). Joan's literary personae form six unhappy 'families': Jacobin, Romantic, mechanical, Marxist, gendered, religious. Group I includes Southey, Coleridge, De Quincey. Groups II and III are families of one, Schiller and Mark Twain. The fourth runs from Shaw to Lillian Hellman via Brecht and HoIl)1WOOd. The fifth expands the Bloomsbury circle of Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf to accommodate Michel Tournier. The last teams up Catholic and Jewish writers Péguy, Claudel, Bernanos with Franz Werfel, Leonard Cohen, and Eric Ehn.

These authors all betray recurrent obsessions with ritual violence, sacrificial murder, mimetic rivalry, the lures of machine and money, and the anxiety of influence, which Astell undertakes to psychoanalyse, lending voice to their untold desires: thus, 'Southey kills the king imaginatively in order to take the king's place as a laureated poet' (p. 18), a wish he will attain some seventeen years later. Astell makes no mystery of her own identification with the heroine and, beyond her, with the martyr poet: her early involvement with Joan provided both starting point and heuristic tools to her essay. Still, how to bridge the gap between personal concern and objective criticism is not clear. The corpus is flawed by circularity, restricted to works at once conforming to the pattern established as central, and confirming its validity: 'what is striking about them when considered as a group, is the clearly evident, recurrent use of the life, death, and afterlife of a medieval saint in order to comment analogously on . …

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.