Permit, dear readers, a digression... on Jehan.

Meta related to characters, plots, or other elements introduced by Victor Hugo in Les Misérables.
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Frédérique
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Postby Frédérique » Tue Nov 17, 2009 7:48 pm

It has to refer to Freemasons, not merely masons as in stonecutters, builders - otherwise, why mention the rue Grenelle-Saint-Honoré?
(As for his joining, I assumed it was a question of family tradition, but I really don't know anything about the topic at all, so--)

Poetry-wise in theory* I'm somehow seeing him in the spirit of 1820-30 Lamartine (especially the second batch of méditations - just the right mixture of general philosophical musing and ... stars! butterflies! mythology!) - profound melancholy rather than gothic horror and Bacchantic (or Byronic) abandon. But there is so minimal a concrete basis for either assumption (and his name and questionable dress sense do associate him with the wilder French Romantics - not so much with the 1820s royalist salon variety, though [much as I'd love to see him bonding with Nodier over sheer bibliophilia. and because I always think of that one caricature of Nodier which totally looks like a Combeferre, type-wise], but the two have intersections) that, when it comes to recreating Jehan for fan work, neither take seems outright refutable.

The skull-drinking et al don't go all that well with his reported softness, gentleness, timidity, embarrassment, blushing, awkwardness and whatnotall - and yet (another case of Hugo's showing and his telling not quite matching up, see footnote), on the few occasions on which he appears as a character (rather than a name) in the novel (be it defending the Gods - excited, enthusiastic, laughing - or awarding Joly his ailes, or whispering with Courfeyrac about Marius' odd behaviour ... not to mention his manly death), he hardly comes across like the frail, sighing bundle of gloomy insecurity of past generations' fanlore. Or like anything easily embarrassed and intimidated. There's not a single scene in the book in which he is. As far as I recall we don't see him blush or lower his eyes anywhere outside of his introduction paragraph.
(At the same time, we don't really see him putting the implications of his moderately disconcerting reading material into practice anywhere in the text. Jehan is a character with two - at least two! - different bases in text from which to start in recreating him. Hugo sneaks around having to show how all his theoretical attributes can work rolled into one by having him appear in action just about never; a writer wishing to make heavier use of him almost has to decide to leave something by the wayside.) Is Hugo simply too cool to hark back to such a gimmicky trait? Hardly! Joly's hypochondriac tendencies surface repeatedly.

So whether or not you buy full-on Romantic Prouvaire seems to depend on whether you trust Hugo's theoretical description of his behaviour or the way he actually acts in context. He hangs around with Bahorel (the two turn up together to join E+2xC and Feuilly in the Marché Saint-Jean, so it's not unreasonable to infer that they've been attending the funeral and/or awaiting the insurrection together ... no, on second thoughts, it's equally likely that they've turned up individually at about the same time; nonetheless, if he had not been with Bahorel instead, why would Jehan not have accompanied the other four? ... I'm firmly convinced that Hugo meant to pair up these two - Romantically, not romantically, or not necessarily - but ... forgot to actually mention it in the text. Yes. Great argument, capital F.), and goes by a medieval alias. Can you picture a perpetually blushing introvert informing his friends that from this day onwards he demands to be spelled with a gratuitous 'h'? Also, he has no problems with what ever the peer pressure-esque repercussions may be in the Back Room for referring to Buonaparte not merely as Bonaparte but as Napoléon :D


*That is to say, going by his introductory paragraph. The one actual poem of his we see, being such a village fair ditty full of graspable illustrations (rather than images), hardly - no matter how many literary references are thrown in - seems to reflect the space-sweeping soul he is described as, caught up day and night in the contemplation of every question on earth and beyond.
And that's odd. The laughing and excitement and enthusiasm ne point preclude that deep, dark, (pre-)Romantic melancholy - even, as you say, 'seeing something which is not seen by the rest, and which may lead to madness and death' (OH, speaking of that and of German Romantics, he also strikes me as vaguely compatible with Novalis and "Hyperion"-era Hölderlin - not so much in that he would have read them, but been cast from their approximate mold, national and generational differences aside ... and their flare of creativity literally sat between the eras, an exact halfway mark between 1770 and 1830; one way or another J. seems to combine the best of several generations of Romantics, the sensitivity and introspection of Werther and his epigones with a sharp awareness of and will to analyse - and, when it comes to that, confront - the world outside his individual experience, a study of the past and of the abstract, ideal, transcendent, but not a total refuge in either [similar to Enjolras in that]); and would not that go very well with skulls and all? he would not be the first to turn an involuntary quirk into a mannerism, call a distraction an inspiration, subjugate a madness by giving it a method - but this, yes, bucolic little song ... well, perhaps I'm missing its deeper meanings. (As a text of its own, that is, not within the novel.)
Last edited by Frédérique on Tue Nov 17, 2009 8:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Frédérique » Tue Nov 17, 2009 7:59 pm

As for defending the Olymp 'par romantisme même', I'm not sure what is meant by that (erm), but it does not seem to be a particularly gloomy or severe reason. But either way, Romanticism and an interest in ancient mythology obviously don't make a contradiction (since it's all over Romantic poetry and drama in every country), and the Classicists the Romantic dramatists (!) explicitly rebelled against were the French ones more importantly than the ancient ones (all the same, we assume that he does like Racine and Corneille, so you are right, there is a duality), cf. Combeferre and his poultry/birds comparison in 3/Fourth/III.

(What is interesting in this regard is that the conflict is brought up in "Les Misérables" in what is presumably 1828/29 - since Marius has yet to retreat after the Corsica incident - ergo before it came to the famed physical clash between the factions at the opening night of "Hernani". Thus, Bahorel taking an interest in bringing down Classicism at this point might confirm that he actually does care for the Romantic agenda - and duly reads every new play's preface - and not just for a good fight. Or else it's Hugo not giving a toss about what happens when on his timeline. Not that that ever happened.)

The ancient forms - the Classical unities of action, place and time adhered to so meticulously by Racine and his generation - may have been rejected by the Romantics (with young Hugo at their forefront), but ancient topics or at least references hardly become unfashionable (classics being such an essential part of bourgeois education). Hugo invokes ancient history and mythology all the time, not merely by proxy through his characters, but also in his own poetry, as does the aforementioned Lamartine; hardly a self-respecting poet in the long nineteenth century who didn't try his/her hand on adapting the Promethean myth (Goethe briefly, Shelley less so) ;)

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Postby Col.Despard » Tue Nov 17, 2009 8:04 pm

Interesting points, Abelarda -
Abelarda wrote:
Les Misérables, English translation by I. F. Hapgood wrote:Prouvaire, the masons are growing lukewarm

I was always wondering if he was to meet with the Freemasonry or with the workers that build houses... Although I do agree that, knowing Jehan's personality and interests, the first version is more possible.

"Mason" as in builders is how I originally read it, but then realised that the English translations refer to "the lodge of the Rue de Grenelle-Saint-Honore". I'll have to check the original French, but if accurate I'd say it would mean Freemasons, as a "lodge" is their meeting house.

I think Marguerite's explanation in her fanfics covers pretty well how a man of this era and Jehan's age could become a Mason - he's the son of one (and a Master Mason at that).

As an aside - can't believe I forgot to mention this, but I found out recently that my maternal great-grandfather was a Mason of some seniority! He was a Swedish cabin boy who was shanghaiied on arrival in San Francisco in the 1870s and who woke up en route to Australia. Made his money in the gold rush in hotels. It hadn't occured to me that he'd be a Protestant as our family is predominantly Irish Catholic, but it seems the daughter who married into the Irish side converted on her marriage. Her father was already dead by then, and I hardly think a Mason of his standing of the era would have approved. Although he died he died somewhere around 90 years ago, my aunt still has his Masonic regalia...need to see if I can get a chance to photograph it.

2) Jehan as an (English) Romantic.
I have some doubts about this one. The way you portray him in this thread (i.e.: skulls and such) reminds me of English Romanticism, and I'm not sure of the general impact of English Romanticism in France.

The skulls (which seem to have become a delightful fanon meme :) ) and general behaviour are derived from the real-life figures Jehan and Bahorel at least partly based on, whom Hugo knew: Jehan Duseignuer (who, like Jehan, had "medievalised" his name) and Pétrus Borel. They belonged to a group known as Les Bousingos (also spelled Bousingots and Bouzingos) - other members included Théophile Gautier, Gérard de Nerval, Xavier Forneret and Aloysius Bertrand. They certainly did drink out of skulls on at least one occasion, and their general antics often displayed a bizarre, sometimes macarbe sense of humour.

Jehan's outrageous wardrobe is inspired by the French Romantics of the time, who often wore highly anarchronistic clothes and grew their hair long. There are some wonderful illustrations of what they were wearing on the night Hugo's Hernani premiered in 1830. The long hair I depict him with is specifically derived from those images. Among specific items we know the historic romantics wore was a coat from the Revolutionary Convention and medieval doublets.
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Postby Col.Despard » Tue Nov 17, 2009 8:16 pm

Ooops...sorry, Frédérique - I see you'd already posted comprehensively by the time my hardly-open-need-coffee eyes lit on this thread!

I agree about Jehan and Bahorel being paired in the text, and it's something I've meant to mention before - in addition to meeting up with the others at the funeral, when Enjolras is thinking of them in "Enjolras and his Lieutenants", we get (in translation, as I'm running late for work and don't know where the French text is) Bahorel's smile mentioned followed by Prouvaire's melancholy, qualities associated with them which suggest a juxtapositioning more than just situating their names side by side in Enjolras' thoughts. The next two mentioned are the explicitly linked Joly and Bossuet. Coupled with the Borel/Duseigneur connection and their arrival at the funeral, I'd say that the two are linked even if it's not explicitly spelled out.
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Postby Frédérique » Tue Nov 17, 2009 8:49 pm

Ah, I'm not sure 'comprehensively' is quite the word you want (... rampant parentheses are the 'lugubre' of the twenty-first century).
But - !!! I've never noticed that juxtaposition AT ALL (and I recently spent a disgraceful amount of time skimming the book back and forth in search of any actual interaction between the two). That is fantastic.

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Postby Cary » Wed Nov 18, 2009 5:23 am

Just a couple of interesting little nuggets about 19th century Freemasonry I found lying around the internet:

LINK
A Complete History of the Ancient and Primitive Rite
From Its Establishment Down to the Present Time,
Together with Translations of Original Manuscripts and Illustrated


Reginald Gambier McBean & Rui Alexandre Gabirro
From the Archives of the
Sovereign Sanctuary of the 95th and Last Degree of the Ancient and Primitive Rite
Regular Masonic Body of Freemasonry

pg 19:

The Lodge of the "Disciples of Memphis"
(originally founded at Montauban, 70 Rue La Capelle, the 30th April, 1815, by the Bro.
Samuel Honis of Cairo;
Gabriel Matheiu Marconis de Negre;
Baron Dumas;
Marquis de Laroque;
Hippolyte Labrunie;
J. Petit, etc;
Constituted the 23rd May of the same year, and declared asleep
March 7th, 1816, a portion of this lodge started afresh under the Grand Orient of France in 1826) revived its working at the Orient of
Paris, the 21st March, 1839, and was installed in the Temple of the Rue Grenelle Saint Honore by the:
Bro. Jacques Etienne Marconis, Man of letters, born at Montauban,
the 3rd January, 1795;
Napoleon Moutet, Man of letters, Henre de Payan Rentier;
Audibert, MD, Professor and Member of the Institute;
Honore Gazay, Member of the Legion of Honour;
Baron Adolphe de Poederle;
Morison de Greenfield;
August Amic, Ilan of letters;
Henault d'Augy;
Boire Massener; de Lamerliere, Man of letters;
Justin Rousseau, Member of the Legion of Honour;
Delapline, MD (Medal of Honour);
Moreau, Cap. d'etat Major;
Member of the Legion of Honour;
Larousie, Member of the Legion of Honour;
Leon d'Abrantes Man of letters, etc


Yup, there's a real Masonic lodge at Rue de Grenelle-Saint-Honore. :D

Wikipedia had the following statement in its Freemasonry article:

During the 19th Century, French Freemasonry became increasingly involved in politics.


Jehan, Freemasonry - and Occultism? [snickerfit. Despard, Marguerite, I love you guys.]

LINK
NINETEEN FREEMASONS AND THE OCCULT
REVIVAL OF THE LATE 19TH CENTURY
by Bro. William Steve Burkle KT, 32°

It is a fact that whether condoned by the Lodge or not, many Freemasons have participated (and still do participate) overtly or covertly in study of the occult and have engaged in practices clearly associated with occultism. Many of these Masons have contributed heavily to the body of occult literature and have founded organizations based upon occult belief. This paper examines the period of resurgent interest in occultism during the Occult Revival of the late 19th Century, which began in the middle of the 19th Century and continued well into the early-to-mid 20th Century.

[I was reading the article when I stumbled upon the following chunk:
Spiritualism – The belief that the dead can communicate with the living through a medium. Also when used as Divination by means of the spirits of the dead, it’s called Necromancy[xii]. With the Greeks it originally signified the descent into Hades in order to consult the dead rather than summoning the dead into the mortal sphere again. Spiritualism and Necromancy are occult practices.
and, in light of Marguerite's recent Amis vs Zombies story, laughed myself silly. :lol:]


By the way, I was installing tabs all over my "mangleable" copy of the Brick (Fahnestock paperback), when, because of this conversation, I happened to notice a couple of adjectives for Jehan that didn't go with the rest of that timid, gentle-little-mouse portrait that Hugo was painting, but fits in with what Frédérique said about how Hugo sneaks around with Jehan:

"He [Prouvaire] spoke gently, bowed his head, cast down his eyes, smiled with embarrassment, dressed badly, had an awkward air, blushed at nothing, was very timid. Still, intrepid." - pg 652.

"One of the insurgents was missing. And who? One of the dearest. One of the most valiant, Jean Prouvaire." - pg. 1139


Somehow, "timid" and "blushing" and "easily embarrassed", AND "brave and unafraid" don't quite grok. :lol: But then Hugo seems to explain himself:

"Jean Prouvaire was timid only in repose. Once excited, he burst forth, a sort of gaiety characterized his enthusiasm, both laughing and lyric." - pg. 670.


So okay, Jehan's fairly quiet, and sits in a corner blushing and nothing. Until you say the right keywords, whereupon he totally bursts into life. That works for me. :D I know people like that.

Just a question: was the 'Vous rappelez-vous notre douce vie' poem the Amis recited at the barricades actually attributed to Jehan as author? I've checked the Wilbour, Fahnestock-MacAfee and Hapgood translations, and they all said:

The hour, the place, these memories of youth recalled, the few stars beginning to shine in the sky, the funereal repose of these deserted streets, the imminence of the inexorable event, gave a pathetic charm to these verses, murmured in a low tone in the twilight by Jean Prouvaire, who, as we have said, was a gentle poet.

I know Jehan was "addicted to love", but, in the absence of the author's identity, might he be just reciting a love poem that he was particularly taken with, or happened to be in his repertoire (this being a guy who read poetry in five languages)?

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Postby Frédérique » Wed Nov 18, 2009 10:18 am

Freemasonry and French politics have been wound up in one another for some time*, but there are so many rumours spread both by and against the Masons it's hard to track down anything coherent, least of all on the internet. To quote Wikipedia also (from the "History of Freemasonry in France" article):

After the French Revolution, the Jesuit Augustin Barruel wrote that Freemasons had actively prepared the 1789 revolution, which has been used to back theories of a Masonic plot. This thesis was often reprised later, notably during the French Third Republic, by Catholic authors (using it to oppose both the Republic and Freemasonry) and by Freemasons (so as to reinforce their pro-Republican stance and their positive image with the Republican government).


The theory would make an interesting topic of conversation with Prouvaire, but rrrgh, for every right step one could take on the topic one's sure to make three wrong ones. (I've also been wondering if it would have been possible for him to run into Rouget de Lisle at the lodge and question him on how he could write a song that would come to stand to all the world for something he did not even believe in ... seem to recall having found [and apparently lost again] evidence that RDL was in Paris at LM time, but he was destitute and might have never left his room.)

ALSO, from that 1855 article on "Continental Freemasonry" I linked on the previous page:

Freemasonry in France is divided into two great bodies, one working under the auspices of the Grand Orient, or Grand Lodge, and the other deriving its authority from the Supreme Council. Although the members mutually visit each other, yet they hold their meetings in different parts of Paris; the Grand Orient having a house in a street that runs into the east end of the Rue St. Lazare, and the Supreme Council meeting in the Rue de Grenelle, St. Honore, No. 35. The latter building, by the way, is not easy to find by night, as the archway leading to it is very dark, and the lamps in the street exactly throw a shade instead of a light on the number. It is on the same side of the street as the passage of the Vero-Dodats, and one very simple way of discovering it, is to commence at the Vero-Dodats, and to go into every archway until you get the right one, which will be found nearly opposite to, and at no great distance from, the sign of “Les deux Sappeurs”, who grace the first floor of their residence in all the glories of tall shako, white apron, and large hatchet.

I would recommend every brother to visit the house some morning, as it is large and well worth seeing, and especially not to neglect certain chambers in the upper story, which are decorated in a very cheerful manner, and appear eminently calculated to raise the spirits of any nervous individual who might happen to find himself alone in them.


If anyone ever does the research to treat the Freemasonry aspect responsibly ... please incorporate the cheerfully decorated upper story?

I know Jehan was "addicted to love", but, in the absence of the author's identity, might he be just reciting a love poem that he was particularly taken with, or happened to be in his repertoire (this being a guy who read poetry in five languages)?


Ooh, that seems a possibility! In the "Misères" draft, the verses are murmured by Combeferre 'qui était un peu poète' (not doux, though, being the rageur and all), so it is always the poet reciting here, but it really doesn't say explicitly whether it's something he wrote or something he read.
(I just Googled 'a gentle poet' to find the line in the English, and the first two hits that came up were Virgil was a gentle poet. Haha.)

*Completely random piece of information for the Balzac afficionadas: in the (GODAWFUL, POINTLESS, UNRELATED TO THE SOURCE AND OFFENSIVE ON THE RARE OCCASION WHERE IT ISN'T, AVOID IT LIKE THE PLAGUE, THEY'RE NOT EVEN PRETTY) modernised quasi-Comédie adaptation "Rastignac ou les ambitieux", Vautrin (Jean-Pierre Cassel. he's Jean-Pierre Cassel and it still goes wrong) is shown seducing Lucien into joining a Masonic lodge. Or at least that'S what I gathered from the Czech dub (the only Czech I know is 'eagle' and 'earrings').

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Postby Abelarda » Wed Nov 18, 2009 10:10 pm

Sorry for the delay, I'm afraid I cannot express myself both clearly and fast in English.

Frédérique wrote:why mention the rue Grenelle-Saint-Honoré?

You're right, I somehow missed the location. Sorry for creating confusion.

Frédérique wrote:either way, Romanticism and an interest in ancient mythology obviously don't make a contradiction

No, not per se, of course not. It was a simplification, maybe too big, you're right, but I really don't like to use academic language outside of the university, I feel snobbish when I'm doing it. :-) Anyway, while saying that the Greek gods that Jehan defends are connected with the Classics, I wanted to suggest that the whole defending of myth (not only Greek, right, any myth) started in Classicism, as the new conception of myth was created by Giambattista Vico, who was a Classic. (But maybe you have a different classification of who is a Classic and who isn't? It's sometimes treated differently in different languages or countries. And yes, I know it probably is another simplification.) And then there was Herder, on whom Vico had a great impact: Herder was shaped by Classicism, not yet a Romantic, almost like Jehan. Romantic interpretation of myth goes further than Herder's, their joining with the soul of the world is more abstractive, they speak more of archetypes and ideas: their primary inspiration is Schelling rather than Herder (by the way, Schelling inspired many generations of mythologists and not only mythologists, i.e.: Jung). Herder's (and Jehan's) gods are alive, not archetypes, but more concrete beings. That's why I was telling about Jehan's duality. I hope my explanation satisfies you, if you wish, I may develope some points.
(Maybe I should add a long and probably veeery boring lecture about the history of myth with a set of quotes, but somehow I doubt if it really is a good idea :-D)

Frédérique wrote:The skull-drinking et al don't go all that well with his reported softness, gentleness, timidity, embarrassment, blushing, awkwardness and whatnotall

No, not because of the things you mentioned, but because he empathizes with and probably deeply respects other people. See: he 'loved the people, pitied woman, wept over the child'. This and the skull-drinking simply don't clash, at least for me, as this fragment obviously shows that Jehan doesn't treat people like things. We can see him fighting at the barricade, yes, but I assume that killing someone in the name of greater good is one thing (by the way, was it mentioned with an open text that he actually killed someone? I don't remember, but let's assume he did) and making jokes with human skulls is a completely different one. But, of course, you may say it's only my point of view, as it is not openly stated in canon.

Frédérique wrote:Jehan is a character with two - at least two! - different bases in text from which to start in recreating him.

No, I cannot agree with you on this one. Call me strange, but I consider Jehan to be a very well and consequently written character. He's real, not one-dimensional. Actually, you can be an introvert and smile to people, a melancholic and sometimes laugh, be shy and be able to do something courageous (and the last one is officially stated in the book): 'was very timid. Yet he was intrepid'.
Cary wrote:So okay, Jehan's fairly quiet, and sits in a corner blushing and nothing. Until you say the right keywords, whereupon he totally bursts into life. That works for me.

Exactly my trail of thoughts, maybe because of the fact that I, just like the persons you know, Cary, have this kind of personality, too. :-) It's only normal, for there are no monoliths in real life. Besides - please correct me if I'm wrong, Frédérique - mixing Jehan's psychological features with his actions seems a bit inconsequent to me, as the first ones do not always mirror the second ones.
Plus, there are also Freudian mechanisms, which are also possible. I know that you're not very fond of Freud's theories, but this one is not of the "it's all about sex" kind, but deeper, serious Freudism - philosophy of individual. If you'd like to read more about the defence mechanisms, they are very clearly described in, for example, Zimbardo's Psychology and Life, although also in in many other books - it's a common issue. I think Jehan's point of view can be described as "I'm scared by the world, I'm scared by what I see around me and this is why I do what I do". It's the matter of subconscious tendencies to be seen as an equal to the rest of the Amis, to be fully accepted and to conquer his fears. You know, knights looking like angels, and little Perceval who wants to be like them, not knowing that he is the most worthy to achieve it... And, let me add, it's exacly the same mechanism that lets Grantaire stand up and be shot with Enjolras (which is, by the way, another reason why I see Jehan as the only person actually able to understand Grantaire).
Besides, Jehan's character is described from the narrator's point of view, and the narrator is of the omniscient kind. Ergo, he knows all about Jehan and his character, including the things one does not generally like to show. Only part of one's character can be shown through the individual's actions.
As for Napoléon, I think they know perfectly well how far can they go with Enjolras, and they all, not only Jehan, go very, very far: Jehan with Napoléon, Courfeyrac with his pun about Rousseau, Courfeyrac and Bossuet while talking about their lovers and pointing Enjolras' lack thereof at the barricade and - above all - Joly, Bossuet and Grantaire not going to the funeral, when Enjolras asks. The only person actually able to throw Enjolras off his balance is drunken Grantaire. I think the blame is on the part of the fandom who writes Enjolras being always angry. And canon shows that his attitude towards the group wasn't that strict as one might think... Besides, Courfeyrac brings to the meeting a devoted Bonapartist: if Jehan had been opressed for saying "Napoléon", Marius would have been eaten alive. ;-)

Cary wrote:but, in the absence of the author's identity, might he be just reciting a love poem that he was particularly taken with, or happened to be in his repertoire

Good point! It seems that I understood the Polish translation a bit differently (oh, the semantics!); I'll try and search this one in the French text, but I think you are probably right. I constantly cannot stop regretting that I don't know French well enough to read Les Misérables in original.
And it would mean that we really don't know his poetry at all and he could write anything, bucolics, ballads or elegies, or any other poems, which could remind those of Chénier, Hölderlin, Zaleski, Lamartine or Pol, or any other poet, and it's only a matter of fanon.

Col.Despard wrote:The skulls [...] and general behaviour are derived from the real-life figures Jehan and Bahorel at least partly based on

Yes, I know from whence the skulls came; as far as I remember, I even told you in the welcoming thread that I know your theory and that I have a completely different one. And we both have some arguments. I understand your point of view, although I'm not convinced that we can identify literary characters with their (supposed) prototypes. I am quite strict when it comes to canon, but I reduce canon to the plain text, you know, a bit like the structuralists, at least I'm trying to do it. :-) Yes, I do agree that the background, a model for the written one can be very important, too, although my primary interest is the text itself. I mean, Enjolras died at the barricade and Jeanne was imprisoned; Marius and Cosette didn't have to have a daughter named Adéle who went mad; Daniel d'Arthez wasn't Balzac himself; and so on.
Oh, and by the way, you reminded me of a story, which I am tempted to retell here. Do you possibly know Ordon's Redoubt by Adam Mickiewicz? I tried to find the English translation in the Internet and I failed, so I can't provide you with the text, sorry. Anyway, this poem is about Julian Ordon, a young officer who took part in the Polish November Uprising. Mickiewicz let him die a hero's death in the poem, but the truth was completely different. Ordon outlived the November Uprising and went abroad, just like many Poles at that time. But Ordon's Redoubt became so well-known within the Great Emigration that people denied him the right to live, as they believed more Mickiewicz than Ordon himself. You know, it's better to have a dead, but immortal hero than a real, living man... Scary. Well, anyway, he wasn't accepted in many places, led a miserable life, and committed suicide years later, also because of the fact that he couldn't bear the consequences of his poetical 'biography'.

Col.Despard wrote:Jehan's outrageous wardrobe is inspired by the French Romantics of the time

(And now I'm starting to spoil my own, half-written fic... :-D)
But it's also fanon, isn't it? Or, could you show me the proper quote? I'm still wondering if my two translations of Les Misérables are full translations, or are there any missing fragments (well, I know for sure that the older one is censored, but I was sure that the second one is a full translation). As for me, I am so seeing Jehan as Balzac's Lucien Chardon - a boy from the province, not knowing anything about fashion. Do you remember Lucien's clothes when he came to Paris, and the observations he makes while going for a walk across the Tuileries? Paris was snobbish, as Balzac shows almost constantly. So, I guess both versions are equally possible, yours and mine, and we are both attached to our visions, which is perfectly normal...
Tell me, I've still a lot to learn,
Understand, these fires never stop,
Believe me, when this joke is tired of laughing,
I will hear the promise of my Orpheus sing...
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Col.Despard
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Postby Col.Despard » Thu Nov 19, 2009 10:23 am

Hallo there, Abelarda - I think you express yourself exceptionally well in English (better than me in any language including English)!

Yes, I know from whence the skulls came; as far as I remember, I even told you in the welcoming thread that I know your theory and that I have a completely different one.


Ah - I was a little puzzled by your comments that the "skulls" meme struck you as relating more to English rather than French Romanticism, when the sources with which it originated are French. Of course I’m comfortable with different interpretations (and extrapolations!) based on the text. I hope I don't sound as if I intend anything I say to be laid down as the authoritative reading of the text, let alone expect or consider any of my fictional or illustrative interpretations to be regarded as definitive. They’re certainly not (and I also hope I'm not overstressing this – I get nervous about seeming to try to impose my interpretations of characters, either visual or written, on other people). I was responding more to your comment here:

2) Jehan as an (English) Romantic.
I have some doubts about this one. The way you portray him in this thread (i.e.: skulls and such) reminds me of English Romanticism, and I'm not sure of the general impact of English Romanticism in France.


The point I was trying to make is that the source for some of Jehan’s behaviour in the recent fanon trends is derived from very specific French sources – and not just any literary group that happened to be contemporaneous with the events of the novel, but one that included the specific figure on which he was in at least part based. I don’t mean to imply that the two are interchangeable or that the fictional incarnation must precisely reflect the source character (Duseigneur did not fight and die on a barricade), but merely to offer a defence of how I and others have been depicting Jehan by pointing out that the inspiration is not English romanticism, but rather the same wellspring from which Hugo derived at least some elements to these characters. Some of the possible linkages to other strains of Romantic thought are interesting (and some gifted writers have had a good deal of fun with Bahorel and Byron), but English Romanticism was not in my mind when I first brought up the skull drinking.

On the contrary, the source of my inspiration was the same as Hugo used – his Romantic friends. I find the theatricality of their behaviour meshes rather well with the self-dramatisation of Jehan’s medievalisation of his name (a direct borrowing from Duseigneur), and gives both he and Bahorel a plausible context. The concept itself seems rather medieval, hearkening back to the idea of the danse macarbe and memento mori (although the skull as a momento mori has never gone out of fashion, for obvious reasons). Frankly, I weep over children, blush, love the people and am rather fond of a flower or two (and have been thought excessively shy until someone whipped me up on a pet subject), and I’d have no issues at all with drinking out of a skull if the mood took me with a bunch of like minded poets and authors. I see nothing incongruous there.

It’s interesting that there are suggestions of three groups active in French Romanticism of the era in the characters of Bahorel and Prouvaire. Les Bousingos tended to be more political – often students, known for their rowdiness and willingness to join in protests against the government. Then there was Jeunes-France, who tended to wear more flamboyant clothing and were influenced by medievalism (they were often the perpetrators of the more macabre jokes and antics). Then there’s the petit cénacle, who were more closely associated with Hugo. They met in Duseigneur’s studio, and included Gautier, de Nerval and Borel, and while their interests were literary and artistic they were also capable of outré behaviour of the Lobster-on-a-Leash type. Around 1830 the lines between these groups were very blurry, and there was a lot of movement between them - you'll even find the terms used interchangeably at times. Duseigneur’s character is a little hard to get a grasp on – certainly he was closely associated with both Borel and Gautier (extracts from the Borel bio Le Lycanthrope available online suggest it may shed more light on his character – I’ll have to buy a copy). I’m actually wondering if there might be a bit of de Nerval in Prouvaire as well, as he was a rather gentle and dreamy character (also a poet, whereas Duseigneur was a sculptor) …although capable of some extraordinary behaviour, as in his advocacy of lobsters as suitable pets. He was even arrested in 1832 on suspicion of conspiracy. At any rate, I think we’re on fairly safe ground in seeing Prouvaire in this French Romantic context…which doesn’t rule out other influences, of course, including the German Romantics you referred to.

I’ve long had a curious association going on in my head between Prouvaire and Emily Bronte. Not in terms of direct character, but in their interests and world-view. Emily had a bit of a predilection for the apocalyptic. She, too, although supposedly dreamy was a surprisingly practical character. She was a very quiet individual who seemed cripplingly shy (far more so than it is suggested Prouvaire was), but who had extremely strongly developed ideas and who could argue powerfully for them. A strong case has been developed by one of her recent biographers for the influence of German Romanticism in her writing – the evidence is somewhat circumstantial, but strong (it is specifically mentioned that she studied German, and we know that she had at least some access to current trends in that school via the journals her father subscribed to). Some of her transcendental poetry would, I suspect, have had an appeal for Prouvaire.

As an aside – is Enjolras supposed to be based in any way on Charles Jeanne, beyond the fact that both lead 1832 barricades and a few incidentals like stoic attitude towards a lack of food? A purely textual reading suggests Robespierre and (more than once) Saint-Just as the historical inspiration for Enjolras, beyond the obvious mythological/allegorical/biblical sources. I can’t see too many linkages with Jeanne’s story at all – not in biographical background (they differ markedly), how they came to lead a barricade, their characters, their appearance or their ultimate fates.

But it's also fanon, isn't it? Or, could you show me the proper quote? I'm still wondering if my two translations of Les Misérables are full translations, or are there any missing fragments (well, I know for sure that the older one is censored, but I was sure that the second one is a full translation).


Absolutely it’s fanon, and I don’t mean to imply otherwise – I was merely commenting on the French sources for Jehan’s Romantic attire in works like my sketches (as opposed to a source in English Romanticism). Again, I don’t mean to imply that this is the single interpretation. “Badly dressed” can be interpreted in many ways, from outrageous anachronistic clothing (which we know was a style deliberately adopted by some Romantics at the time) to unfashionable or simply badly fitting attire. Any of these can potentially be used.

So, I guess both versions are equally possible, yours and mine, and we are both attached to our visions, which is perfectly normal...


Absolutely :) And I enjoy reading other interpretations. “My” original Jehan was somewhat closer to yours, but has now branched out in another direction largely as a result of meta discussions here on Abaisse and reading more about French Romanticism – he has changed fairly radically in appearance and also in some of his behaviour. He’s not precisely the same as, say, either MmeBahorel’s or Marguerite’s, whom are both distinct, but I can enjoy those thoroughly as well. Same with yours – as long as he’s well-written with a basis in defensible textual analysis, I’m happy. I just tear my hair out when he becomes a flaccid caricature of a 19th Century poet – the wimpy Jehan all too common in fanon. I think different, well thought-out interpretations add an excellent frisson to fandom – otherwise, we’re all just playing follow the leader, following a single convincing idea of a character, whereas there is latitude there for interpretation. There's a lot of interplay between ideas and some cohalescing around certain concepts, but that doesn't mean we all adhere to those ideas. Discussing the various attributes we see in a character and how we present them is part of the interest in fandom for me. Cary’s visual interpretation of Courfeyrac, for example, couldn’t be more different to mine…and I yet I adore him and recognise his textual basis.
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Frédérique
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Postby Frédérique » Thu Nov 19, 2009 6:59 pm

Besides, Jehan's character is described from the narrator's point of view, and the narrator is of the omniscient kind. Ergo, he knows all about Jehan and his character, including the things one does not generally like to show. Only part of one's character can be shown through the individual's actions.


Oh, I agree - and have taken a similar stand (re: the authority of the narrator) upon first crashing into fandom, rejecting point blanc the possibility/justifiability of (for example) giving Enjolras any semblance of a love life, since the narrator states clearly that he's only ever given two kisses in his life, etc., and to ignore that would be to ignore A Known Fact About The Character. (Well, it is. And d'une façon it's 'worse' than speculating about historical figures, since Hugo created his characters, he is the only one who can and does know all that is to be known about them, and is undeniably right in everything he claims. So, you know, en principe I disapprove of all I am about to say. Alas, practice corrupts.)
But when you do try to bring a character to life in your own writing, there may (need not, but may) come a point where you have to either ignore or adapt (by giving it a plausible but not confirmed background, thus, by [re]contextualisation, changing the original information itself) some canon information in order to present a realistic, well-rounded human being. Canon information on Jehan is relatively sparse, as far, at least, as explicit insight into his personality and thought process is concerned - we hear a lot of what the thinks about in theory (what he thinks about more than what he thinks about it) and we hear that he is shy-except-when-he-is-not, and c'est ça, pretty much. What his actual philosophy consists in is mainly between (or behind) the lines - and there already you have to reconcile his goodness and softness with the bloodthirsty/apocalyptic reading material (which I for one was completely unaware of before reading this thread); add to that a possible Herderian Romanticism and to that, again, an association with the French Romantics of the time (behind the text, through his name, but also within the text, through his name change), his possible Freemasonry, not to forget his position as one of the most promiment members of a Republican student society, and you're faced with quite a bundle.

As fanfiction on the whole is heavier on showing than on telling (unlike Hugo's characterisation of most Amis, and especially Prouvaire - I dare say it's possible to get the gist of, say, Courfeyrac or Bossuet from their actual scenes, not least since half their intros are taken up by digressions on particles and names respectively, but not Prouvaire - how much of what his introduction says about him would you gather from his appearances in context? next to nothing, I think, both as concerns his erudition and as concerns his extreme shyness, not to mention the lack of physical appearance of either his flute or his flowers, as far as I recall), a recreated Jehan must surely be modeled to some extent on his scenes, too.
(Obviously) I don't believe we could ever see all of Jehan (or anyone) through these (nor do I demand that he be monolithic - but there you have it: real people are not monoliths, but to what extent are Hugolian characters 'real people'? Enjolras for one is highly implausible as a real person, so there may be a choice to make between faithfulness to text and faithfulness to life) - he simply does not get a lot of action or lines of dialogue, his theoretical introduction is probably as long as all his practical appearances combined - but they have to be taken into account, surely? And in "Les Misérables" the way a character is described and the way (s)he actually behaves in the text do sometimes not match up (though that may well be my layman's eye; it's probably possible to explain a lot of apparent incongruencies by applying various psychoanalytical theories [... if I sound negative, I don't mean to right now!]). Ff.net's AmZ makes an interesting example of Javert in this regard - exaggerated, surely (or rather, coloured by personal interpretation, as we all are), but the point remains. The narrator makes plenty of statements about Marius and what a remarkable figure he becomes, tried by poverty, and yet the Marius the reader observes - and in his case we do witness his own thoughts, and not merely the narrator's summary and a few short scenes - is hardly the potentially sublime demi-god who has 'arrived at the truth of life'.
So while, in reading the book for itself and the characters as characters, we have to accept the narrator's words as final and resolving-all-that-needs-resolving, in reading the book as a source, a basis for further creative work, and reading the characters as people at whose lives and personalities Hugo provides a mere glimpse, it is, I think, possible (but also dependent on the individual approach) to perceive gaps or contradictions in the given information. Hugo's work is finished and does not require these to be filled or corrected. But in a piece of fanfiction that pays more or more in-depth attention to the character in question, some question marks are likely to become more visible than they were in the context of the novel - and I do think that, once one starts paying attention to Prouvaire especially, there are plenty of questions arising to which answers can only be found by interpretation outside the novel (since the answers are not relevant in the novel itself), by looking into his reading material or into the persons who might have inspired him, or by psychoanalysing him to some extent (or both) - and that in doing so one runs a high risk of discarding one aspect because it does not fit in the context one has found for another. But I'm only too happy to be disagreed with on that!

I don't think Jehan is one-dimensional - but he simply does not appear enough to strike me as 'consequently written', or really well-developed. It's not incoherent or incomprehensible within the plot, but there simply isn't enough of him to begin with. It's hard to find a scene in which he behaves jarringly out of character because he has so few scenes that his character is necessarily defined by the mixture of those.
I do still think his seen behaviour does not match his description. Not because shyness and excited ranting on favourite topics (or introvertion and smiling, or melancholy and laughter) don't go together - I put that very badly (English is not my first language, either ;)): what strikes me as off about his three or four brief moments of dialogue in the book, and especially his defence of the Gods, is not that he speaks at all, but with such lightheartedness and non-seriousness (again, it's not that I think a melancholy character would not laugh, but in this context) - he isn't giving a long-winded explanation of his passionate convictions, he is ... making conversation. He does not seem to have been sitting around with a tiny smile listening in on the others waiting for their conversation to finally possibly oh please turn to a subject on which he feels confident enough to make a comment of his own. I'd go as far as to suggest he does not actually believe the Gods are alive at all, but, well, yes, defends them for sheer joy of trying on the concept to see if it suits his wits - there is no evidence of that in the text (other than the 'par romantisme même'), but the fact that he is laughing and speaking so casually seems to point towards it. It does not seem to be a topic that's been weighing on his mind for weeks on end waiting to be freed; he does not seem to have been lured into the conversation by the opportunity to finally inform his friends that after long contemplation he has concluded that the Gods are not dead, but much rather joined the argument for its own sake. Not to say he hadn't given the question any previous thought - just that he seems to be elaborating quite spontaneously and playfully.
Perhaps that is only my impression - but for contrast, take Marius and his Corsica rant - that scene, to me, reads much more like what happens if a timid, awkward type is given a rare cue to speak on a matter close to his heart - a lot spills out at once, and he barely pays attention to the reaction. (Of course, Marius' own reservation is of a very particular brand, laced with such explicit - and exaggerated - concerns for his dignity.) Even and especially for one who supposedly speaks up rarely, Jehan appears very much at ease in the conversation - enthusiastic and excited, yes, but cheerfully, not nervously. Of course, he is among people he has been friends with for what may have been years; he knows he has nothing to fear from them even if they disagree with his arguments or disprove them (hardly possible in the discussion at hand). But if that is so, it applies all the time, no matter what the topic. And indeed: previous to Marius' rant (which is literally brought on by a dropping of keywords), several Amis, Prouvaire included, are 'confusedly fencing' (or something along those lines) in a 'conflict of quips'. The impression I am under is that Jehan is a regular participant in all of their conversation, be it semi-serious discussion or friendly banter, and that, if he is timid 'in repose', he is rarely in repose in the back room. (But, yes, that is my interpretation.)

I wasn't quite serious about the Napoléon thing - nonetheless, Enjolras does order SILENCE from Courfeyrac re: Rousseau, and while he obviously isn't going to ban anyone from meetings for joking, teasing or drunken uselessness, he does, presumably, mean it. Only, Courfeyrac, the old iconoclast, is not particularly intimidated by that. Whereas I think that if Prouvaire were as easily embarrassed as he is said to be, he probably would have blushed from head to toe if rebuked even in the slightest - e.g. for saying 'Napoléon'. Particularly since he isn't a Bonapartist, i.e. his saying 'Napoléon' is not a case of his expressing a passionately held view. The fact that he does say 'Napoléon' presumably for poetic grandeur alone - the fact that he, too, knows 'how far they can go' and is willing to go that far on a regular basis - makes him look much more confident in an everyday context than he is said to be. Like the medieval alias - he is so much what is called quirky today, and seems, going by the good cheer in which we see him, more inclined to take pride in the fact, or at least indulge it, than to be ashamed. That does not have to mean there is not a very deep melancholy behind that front - on the contrary. But the front itself does not seem to be melancholy - and that is the contradiction I saw, since Hugo describes him as such a sad, weeping, soft-spoken thing in the introduction, and Enjolras thinks of his melancholy in the Lieutenants chapter. His melancholy exists, no doubt, but we don't see him wearing it much on the outside. And so there is a choice to make in recreating Jehan, I think, between two (or more?) justifiable options - to present him melancholy inside and out, or to give him also that playful, whimsical, cheerfully conversing façade with which he presents himself in action (which can still be dropped at intervals, of course - but whether to have it at all is the choice, since it's something that is not mentioned in Hugo's theoretical characterisation of him, but is evident from his scenes).

I hope my explanation satisfies you, if you wish, I may develope some points.
(Maybe I should add a long and probably veeery boring lecture about the history of myth with a set of quotes, but somehow I doubt if it really is a good idea :-D)


It does! You go much deeper than I had been thinking in the first place. Personally I wouldn't mind a long and boring lecture (as you've probably gathered, I'm altogether uneducated), but it might not be strictly on topic.
As concerns 'who is a Classic', the question is 'who is what sort of Classic'. Euripides is a Greek Classic, Racine is a French Classic, and as far as I understand it, it's the latter - the 'bewigged tragedy' - that our French Romantics would be directly rebelling against.
You are right, the Classic eras don't match up in any countries - the Germans, for instance (who are the only ones whose literary era timeline I have a coherent idea of), place their own 'Classic' period at the turn of the eighteenth/nineteenth century, with mid-career Goethe, late Schiller, and, yes, Herder - all writers that, in other countries' books, are frequently filed as Romantics, and yet the label is used by German scholars to distinguish them, the Weimar crop, from the pre-Romantics (Schelling among them) active around Jena at the same time. (To complicate matters further, Goethe and Schiller had of course previously figured as top representatives of the sort of pre-pre-Romanticism called 'Sturm und Drang', so even if one stays within a single country's books, even if one looks at a single person, the labels don't work out too smoothly. No monoliths.)

I like your Lucien parallel, wardrobe-wise - though it can still go with the crazy Romantic fashion! All is pure speculation on this topic since it's only brought up once (and it does only say he 'se mettait mal'), but who knows, he might have, upon first coming to Paris, spotted a group of long-haired lobster-walkers, decided this was exactly what he wanted to be, but took some time to actually find his way into the style, discover what cuts and colours work for him in a way that's duly mis-, but not ill-fitting - if I recall correctly, Lucien, on his Great Night Gone Wrong, fails not because he is still in provincial dress, but because his outfit is assembled too deliberately and stereotypically à la mode. This can arguably go even wronger (so to speak) if the crowd you're trying to fall in with is a subculture whose members pride themselves on individuality rather than 'class'. Perhaps Prouvaire went to a tailor's and demanded to be given exactly what Gautier had been given, regardless of whether it fit his type or bearing :D And then there is his air of timidity. Bahorel presumably wears no less ridiculous clothes, but looks 'téméraire' rather than badly dressed because he has a natural devil-may-care air that Jehan is lacking. Again, speculation. But fun.



As an aside – is Enjolras supposed to be based in any way on Charles Jeanne, beyond the fact that both lead 1832 barricades and a few incidentals like stoic attitude towards a lack of food?


I don't believe so. If Hugo had meant for the reader to consider Enjolras a(n absurdly idealised, virtually unrecognisable) stand-in for Jeanne, he probably would have a)placed his own fictional barricade at Saint-Merri and b)not mentioned Jeanne and his larger barricade in addition to Enjolras and the Chanvrerie barricade.

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Postby Abelarda » Thu Nov 19, 2009 10:15 pm

Despard, thank you, but you're a very good debator yourself and I really like to read your posts.

Col.Despard wrote:I hope I don't sound as if I intend anything I say to be laid down as the authoritative reading of the text

No, not at all! I hope I didn't sound like I intended to to it when I started to take part in this discussion. I'm not familliar with all of you yet, and when I don't know someone, I'm usually very formal. But it's not that I wanted to be the only authority, I just saw you all accepting skull-drinking Jehan as local fanon and I sometimes like to discuss about concepts or ideas that are more popular than the others. But I never wanted to say that you cannot see Jehan your way, either.

Col.Despard wrote:I was a little puzzled by your comments that the "skulls" meme struck you as relating more to English rather than French Romanticism

Oh, now I understand. We simply have different therminologies and this is why we misunderstood each other. What I named 'English pre-Romanticism and Romanticism', is in fact a trend, something much more frenetic that the German one (Frédérique, will you forgive me another simplification? ;-)). And that's why I was using the opposition 'English (pre-)Romanticism' versus 'German (pre-)Romanticism', the same way you can have English gardens in Australia, Poland or any other country. French Romanticism is a mixture of those two, the 'frenetic' (=English) one and the 'calmer' (=German) one, the same as Polish and any other. I was wondering about the proportions. Was French Romanticism very frenetic? I mean, in general?

Col.Despard wrote:I weep over children [...] and I’d have no issues at all with drinking out of a skull

And now I really want to write my own version of Jehan and skull-drinking, you know? :-D Not a serious fanfiction, no, only a short scene. I'll try to do it if I find enough time. Although I'm not saying that he would drink, but I can imagine his reaction at the proposition.

Col.Despard wrote:I’m actually wondering if there might be a bit of de Nerval in Prouvaire as well

It's an interesting theory; I guess I could see him a bit similar to Nerval, not only because of a_marguerite's lobsters, although it leaves me with some hypothetical questions about Jehan's mental state. Could you tell me more about how are you seeing this similarity? I mean, I can imagine Jehan as a person who is prone to depression and constantly overcoming it, but do you think he's suicidal?

Col.Despard wrote:the self-dramatisation of Jehan’s medievalisation of his name (a direct borrowing from Duseigneur)

Well, I don't see it as something theatrical. First and foremost, as far as I remember (although I may be wrong, I don't know French very well), 'Jean' and 'Jehan' are pronounced in exactly the same way. The difference can be only seen if one writes it down. And we actually have the dialogues written in the book, and none of the Amis ever calls him 'Jehan'. It's always 'Jean Prouvaire'. And because of this, I think that it's very possible that 'Jehan' was more in private use, not in his contacts with the rest of the Amis, maybe he was signing his poems this way. Or maybe he used it in letters to his closest friends. After all, 'il s'appelait Jehan', 'his name was Jehan', but we don't know if the others used this name, too.
By the way, do you possibly know how was this form used by Duseigneur? In a signature, maybe?

Col.Despard wrote:As an aside – is Enjolras supposed to be based in any way on Charles Jeanne

Another version is that he was based on Vigouroux, Jeanne's assistant, who also survived the barricade, and here I'm almost sure I know the source. As far as I remember, it was written in Ziegler's Paris et ses révolutions (was it translated into English?). Anyway, it may be hard to verify; did Hugo ever mention about it? Now I'm starting to get curious...

Col.Despard wrote:A purely textual reading suggests Robespierre and (more than once) Saint-Just as the historical inspiration for Enjolras

And, let me add, not real Saint-Just, but rather his romanticized version. Can you possibly imagine young Enjolras running away with a girl or writing a pornographic poem? This vision amuses me to no end. :-)
Now more seriously. It's a very interesting problem, although I'll try to answer in the right tread (yes, I saw it and even managed to read it), but again, I'm a slow debator...

Col.Despard wrote:I just tear my hair out when he becomes a flaccid caricature of a 19th Century poet – the wimpy Jehan all too common in fanon.

I never considered Jehan wimpy; I hate this vision probably as much as you do, as Jehan is one of my (two? three?) favourite characters from the book. On the contrary, I consider him to be one of the strongest (if not the strongest) of the Amis, even if he himself doesn't know about it. Although yes, his strength is totally diferent than Bahorel's. You know, when I think of Jehan, I mean this quiet, gentle strength, which is sometimes unseen unless you know the person very well. And when you finally begin to see it, you are suprised exacly how much this person really can do. The closest example of how I see him is, well, I'd have to think about it a bit longer, but maybe Melanie Wilkes from Gone With the Wind. She may seem boring at first, if you aren't looking closely, a typically 'good', gentle, quiet heroine. But when Tara is in danger, we can see this sweet, gentle Melanie in a nightshirt and with a weapon in her hand, ready to kill a Yankee soldier. And she is sick, she almost cannot walk! I do admire her inner strength and somehow I'm seeing Jehan in a similar way.

Frédérique, I'm sorry, but I'm afraid that I'm too tired to answer you right now, as I was working to 7:00 PM today and I'm starting to forget even my own name. I'll try tomorrow or maybe the day after as tomorrow I'm going to see Danton's Case in the theatre, at last, and I doubt in my ability to concentrate... :-)
Tell me, I've still a lot to learn,
Understand, these fires never stop,
Believe me, when this joke is tired of laughing,
I will hear the promise of my Orpheus sing...
(David Sylvian)

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Postby a_marguerite » Fri Nov 20, 2009 1:46 pm

I have nothing intelligent to add to this utterly fascinating discussion, but I wanted to thank all of you for writing it. <3

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Postby MmeBahorel » Fri Nov 20, 2009 5:49 pm

I think the H throws a stop into the middle forcing it into something closer to two syllables. Depending on the accent, you should hear a slight difference, particularly if any of the boys have a particularly heavy Southern accent with its emphasis on final sounds. (Prouvaire would, in the south, sound more like "Prouvaira".)

Of course, how does one pronounce "Jolllly"? And why does one need four wings if one is not an insect, which one doesn't contemplate soaring? Why not, with the anglophilia going around in this period, and Joly's temperament, two wings for "Jolly"?

As for the anglophilia, I wish I had bought the exhibition catalogue for "From Constable to Delacroix", which is now out of print and had sold out by the time I went back to London, because the introduction covered all this in detail. I'm piecing together from William Atwood's "The Parisian World of Frédéric Chopin" and Frederick B. Artz' "France under the Restoration". Byron in particular was well known and revered throughout France, Shakespeare was first performed fully in Paris by an English touring company in 1827 (there had been awful translations before, of course, including an Othello that was rewritten as to preserve the unities of time and place). There was definite influence from the Lake Poets, Constable and Bonington exhibited in the 1824 Salon and Delacroix went to England the following year because he was completely bowled over by English art. In literature, Walter Scott was everywhere.

But what I can't tell, because I haven't actually done the relevant work, is if French Romanticism was more heavily influenced by the English or if reading in English gives that impression. Certainly Goethe was a strong influence, but I'm not finding so much on Herder and Hegel and nothing on Schelling in what I currently have on my bookshelf. This is a known gap in my reading. But the English influence was very strong on all types of society - from the dandies who were obsessed only with English tailoring and horses to the Romantics who worshiped Byron and Shakespeare. So while I suspect I'm being led correctly that French Romanticism was more than 50% English, I do wonder if it only looks that way because my sources are linguistically biased. If that makes sense.
What kind of literature and what kind of life is the same question. - Tom Stoppard

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Postby Frédérique » Fri Nov 20, 2009 9:44 pm

And we actually have the dialogues written in the book, and none of the Amis ever calls him 'Jehan'. It's always 'Jean Prouvaire'.


Ah, but - how many occasions do we have, in the text, of anyone actually addressing him by any name? There is only Enjolras in the "... Lieutenants" chapter, using the last name only (he does later use the full name speaking to Combeferre, when Prouvaire has already been captured). Other than that, previous to the barricade, the only time we hear anyone speaking to Prouvaire (rather than Prouvaire being quoted - as telling Joly to fly away on the 'L's, as sometimes saying 'Napoléon', or as defending the Gods; that is all there is of him, pre-insurrection) is Courfeyrac whispering to him "That's odd" re: Marius' changed mood ('"No," responded Prouvaire, "that's serious."'). It is the narrator who, for some reason, persistently calls him Jean Prouvaire. (I'd been thinking that his being called Jean was probably mentioned only to point out that he gave himself the extra 'h', but that really would not explain why the name is written out practically every time he is mentioned, so ...)

I'll try tomorrow or maybe the day after as tomorrow I'm going to see Danton's Case in the theatre, at last, and I doubt in my ability to concentrate... :-)


Take your time (and oh, you can probably guess how jealous I am)!


Certainly Goethe was a strong influence, but I'm not finding so much on Herder and Hegel and nothing on Schelling in what I currently have on my bookshelf.


I'm under the impression (but then, I have less of a gap in my reading and more of a little reading in a lot of gap) that Schelling (and Hegel, too) would have been relevant for French Romantics perhaps not so much directly but filtered through Heine and the essays of his French period (too late for our Amis, though) - still probably more for those with a pronounced interest in Germany (which wasn't as fashionable as anglophilia) than for thinkers in general, although he always tries to make connections between the two cultures. There's a passage in his "History of Religion and Philosophy in Germany" (the one that famously ends on a note rather like 'Oh, trust me, you don't want the Germans to get their act together and become a nation state. It'll be quite unpleasant for everyone else.') - originally published in France and addressed to the French - where, comparing the progress of German philosophy with that of French history, he sees in Kant the Revolution and the Terror, in J. G. Fichte Bonaparte/the Empire, in Schelling the Restauration, and names Hegel (appreciatively) as the one to finish the revolutionary job. (This was a simplification on my part, not Heine's ;) .) When he wrote his "The Romantic School"* he literally pointed out that the French had not been treated to a comprehensive account of 'German intellectual life' since Mme de Staël's "De l'Allemagne" (1813); since he (who was pretty well-connected among Parisian intellectuals) assumed that there was need/a market for such a summarising/explaining account, it seems logical to assume that your average Romantically inclined Frenchperson had not instinctively been looking into contemporary German philosophy previously. (Just an assumption, though. And it can't be overlooked that what he does, then, proceed to write, is not so much an update on the state of the art, but to a large extent a satirical revision of "De l'Allemagne".)

Should be interesting to consider what was translated when, too (particularly for Jehan, for whom we have a list of 'languages spoken', which includes neither English nor German) - in "Les Misérables" we have something as relatively noteworthy as the Gans/Savigny quarrel, which broke out in '27, go to Marius as an odd job in '32. Was this a realistic scenario? Now, if I get French Wikipedia correctly, Hegel, for example, was not translated until the 1840s?


*This text is potentially useful all in all when it comes to comparing and contrasting French and German Romanticism, since explaining to the French what German Romanticism is (or was) is more or less Heine's professed ambition in writing it (though he goes about it in a, shall we say, subjective way; he shows off the Jena scene - Schlegel, Schelling, Arnim, Brentano, Tieck ... - and its medieval mysticism as so cutesily ridiculous you are left to wonder why he thought anyone should be reminded of their existence at all); sadly he did not write an exact counterpart explaining French Romanticism to the Germans in the same witty manner, which would make it easier to name the exact differences. (Possibly because he did not think the French equally ridiculous. To paraphrase the piece, "French madness is not as mad as German madness, for in the latter, there is method.")

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Postby Abelarda » Sat Nov 21, 2009 9:23 pm

Frédérique wrote:But when you do try to bring a character to life in your own writing, there may [...] come a point where you have to either ignore or adapt [...] some canon information in order to present a realistic, well-rounded human being.

More to adapt than to ignore, I'd say, and with a proper explanation. As a person who is constantly polishing her skills in writing fanfiction for about, more or less, six years, I know what are you talking about. I do agree that if I were to choose between canon and the psychological probability, I'd choose the latter, but also trying to avoid being OOC as much as possible. Although there are still some scenarios that are easier to explain than the others, and it's always better to adapt (or, if there really is no other way, to ignore) one little thing about the character than rewriting him with completely new personality. Plus, there are also AUs, and it's not that I don't like them, absolutely not! I simply consider some of them more plausible than the others. I mean, Enjolras having sex before 1832 would be much more OOC (at least for me) than Enjolras who somehow survived the barricade (so I'm assuming right from the start that I'm writing an AU), and is changing, slowly, but consequently (because, as I said before, people are no monoliths), with a fairly described background and adequate explanation, and then at last this new, developed Enjolras is capable of having sex, because of the change. Although the other problem is that one has to be a good writer to descibe it well enough to make me believe it.

Frédérique wrote:and there already you have to reconcile his goodness and softness with the bloodthirsty/apocalyptic reading material

The books that Jehan reads were one of the first things that caught my attention, as I'm a librarian and I usually have to pay attention to the books chosen by different people. And I don't know if you believe me, but I don't see any contradiction between his goodness and softness and his favourite books; the way I see it, it all fits very well. Writing or reading is, in fact, a good and commonly used therapy (even if sometimes it's completely subconscious): choosing the right books is, in a way, one of defence mechanisms, too. It lets people transfer their real emotions into the book and not to push them aside, at the level of subconsciousness, which is always destructive. In addition, the reader's emotions are hidden behind the mask ("I am a good man and I don't have the right to feel all those negative emotions, but the ones written in the book are not mine, they belong to someone else, someone different than me, so it's all right if I read about them"), which is another advantage: if he assumes they are not his own, he can distance himself from them more easily, and if he distances himself, it's easier to tame them. And then you have the katharsis. It's a great bibliotherapy, to work out one's negative emotions with the help of books, to let oneself feel them and forget about them at the level of consciousness. Sorry if I seem to concentrate on psychology again (and yes, I understand now that when it comes to psychoanalysis, you're not as much negative as I was thinking at first), but, in fact, I'm quite interested in it and, frankly speaking, I have to be interested, as I need to use it in my studies. :-)
By the way, I recall something that Goethe said, although I'm not sure of the source: it was about The Sorrows of Young Werther. Goethe said that if he didn't write it, he would probably commit suicide. As far as I remember, you're from Germany: do you possibly know where and when did he say it?

Frédérique wrote:Enjolras for one is highly implausible as a real person, so there may be a choice to make between faithfulness to text and faithfulness to life

Is he? To some extent, yes, but I'd be more a bit more cautious with saying it than you are. I mean, as far as I recall, we don't really know his thoughts. We see him mostly by his actions, again (with the exception of the introductiony paragraph), fixed and concentrated on only one thing, but does he really think about this one thing twenty-four hours a day, or was it metaphorical, to show his level of concentration? Although I admit that it's the problem with the nineteenth-century novels as a whole (I know I'm generalizing, of course), as the time for writing streams of consciousness had not come yet: we usually don't see what and how the hero is thinking, we don't see the process itself. Anyway, it gives us some (yes, some, and I do agree that it's limited) space to manoeuvre and to explore, you know, one of those 'places of no designation', so it actually is possible to reconcile faithfulness to text with faithfulness to life. But again, only to some extent.
Besides, when it comes to Enjolras, it's also written in the text that he was changing under the influence of Combeferre, and when he was to choose between friendship (and save Jehan) and greater good (and make a use of Javert), he's actually choosing friendship, which appears more human, even if a captive spy would be much more useful. Interesting... But it's only a digression.

Frédérique wrote:As concerns 'who is a Classic', the question is 'who is what sort of Classic'

I suppose that in Vico's case would be safer to talk about the Age of Enlightenment, then. Ah, but I see we're getting out of topic, so do forgive me leaving this matter.

Frédérique wrote:what strikes me as off about [...] his defence of the Gods, is not that he speaks at all, but with such lightheartedness and non-seriousness

So, it seems that we have a completely different impression of that scene, again. He is excited, yes, and cheerful, yes, and in a fervor, but I don't see him treating the issue lightly. See: 'once excited, he burst forth, a sort of mirth accentuated his enthusiasm, and he was at once both laughing and lyric' (in French, 'il était a la fois riant et lyrique'; by the way, isn't 'riant' more 'cheerful' or 'happy' than 'laughing'? Because, in my opinion, it gives a different meaning...). It's a general description from the narrator and it does not limit to this one scene. So there must be something that will make him excited! And when he gets excited, he simply cannot sit quietly in the corner, he forgets to be nervous and allows himself to be carried away by his enthusiasm, and then it's only him and the issue. Besides, I remember it all too well from my own exams, discussions or whatsoever, when I was behaving in exactly the same manner. ;-) Yes, I know, the last one is not a very good explanation. But now we're talking about our impressions and not about the facts, as you admitted yourself, and impressions are not something to be proved...

MmeBahorel wrote:I think the H throws a stop into the middle forcing it into something closer to two syllables

MmeBahorel, thanks for the explanation! And you're right about Joly. Now I'm wondering if there are any audiobooks in French to check it...

Frédérique wrote:how many occasions do we have, in the text, of anyone actually addressing him by any name? There is only Enjolras

Right, the narrator uses his name, I mean, any name, much more often than it appears in the dialogues. But on the other hand, even if we see Enjolras talking about him even those two times that you mentioned, it is evident that he doesn't use his nickname. Right, you can say that Enjolras is reserved and formal, and because of this he uses more official form. But when it comes to Bossuet, Enjolras uses his nickname and not the real name. And I dare say that it can (can, not must!) be interpreted that 'Jehan' wasn't in common use among the group.
And as for the narrator, we can probably only try to guess. Personally, I think that the frequent mentioning of his first name may be interpreted that he was quite young, just like Marius, who is also mentioned by his first name. But it's only a guess.

Frédérique wrote:(and oh, you can probably guess how jealous I am)

I came, I saw, I am impressed. I can tell you more about it, if you'd like to, although not in this thread, as I'm getting out of topic again. :-)

Frédérique wrote:Should be interesting to consider what was translated when, too

Try using WorldCat, it's way better than Wikipedia.
Tell me, I've still a lot to learn,
Understand, these fires never stop,
Believe me, when this joke is tired of laughing,
I will hear the promise of my Orpheus sing...
(David Sylvian)


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