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

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

Postby Ravariel » Thu Jul 28, 2011 3:52 am

Ah, I see. So it's primarily an issue of admiring what Chenier was leading literature into, and may or may not have to do with actually liking his poetry.
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Re: Permit, dear readers, a digression... on Jehan.

Postby Enjolras-the-jaw » Sun Nov 06, 2011 5:43 am

Taking this forum all the way back to page one, I can explain (however far-fetched) how Jehan knows all those languages. Let's start under the assumption he is Jewish and therefore knows Hebrew. If we go back in Jewish history to the period of Antiocus IV, Jews were rapidly being Hellinised, and because of this, learning Greek. Later in history, specificly 73 CE, the Romans conquer Judea and a lot of the people assimilate. Many of them learn Latin (example: Joesephus, probably someone Jehan has read as well). Finally, during the Spanish expulsion, many Jews live in Italy. This could be a ancestry of Jehan and these languages were passed down in his family. Just think of it as a far-fetched possibility.
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Re: Permit, dear readers, a digression... on Jehan.

Postby Citizeness Feuilly » Mon Nov 07, 2011 4:44 pm

A very, very far-fetched possibility. :) I find it extremely unlikely that Jehan's family kept up their Greek for 2000 years. I mean, even if he was a Jew, and his ancestors spoke Greek, they would just have assimilated to the local language over time. The Greek would have been lost within a few generations, and the family would have simply spoke whatever local dialect was most prevalent. The same for the other languages you mentioned as well.

Also, the Jewish theory is disproved by the simple fact of Jehan's name; I wasn't able to find a meaning or origin with a few quick searches, but Prouvaire is a very French-sounding surname.

Edit: I went back a few pages into the discussion, and found this:

pruveire, pruvere; provaire, proveire, provere, provoire; pruaire, prueire is Old French (Langue d'Oïl) for "priest" (which is derived from "presbyter").


So there's that question answered. But anyways, intermarriage is, I suppose, a possibility--but then, would a French father allow his half-Jewish son to be taught Hebrew? Given the cultural anti-Semitism in France at the time, I just don't think so.

Given the classical education that someone from Jehan's socio-economic class would have received at the time, and the resources for knowledge and learning that he would have had access to, a far simpler answer that he honestly was interested in them, and sought out learning them himself. Latin and Greek would probably have been standard parts of his education; other languages, like Hebrew and Florentine, would have taken more ingenuity to acquire--but that's been covered in detail earlier on in the thread.

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

Postby Ravariel » Tue Nov 08, 2011 3:01 am

My own personal theory is that the Hebrew has to do with the Protestantism connection--if Protestantism runs in the family some way or another, like the Masons bit would suggest, rather than just being something Jehan read about and decided upon, it's possible he might have relatives who studied at Protestant universities outside of France, say in Geneva with the Calvinist circles (whose theology is fairly similar to that of the French Huguenots)--and learning the Biblical languages has always been a big thing in serious Protestant religious education. So if Jehan wanted Isaiah in the original language, it might not be that hard to either a) find a relative he could learn from or b) have a relative suggest a tutor, Jewish or not, with a knowledge of Hebrew. (In my headcanon, he learns from his maternal grandfather.)

Anybody mind pointing out if there are historical problems with this?
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Re: Permit, dear readers, a digression... on Jehan.

Postby MmeBahorel » Tue Nov 08, 2011 5:02 am

Huguenot is far more likely than Jewish - the anti-semitism of the period would likely have had Hugo referencing any Jew either as an exotic figure or as a grasping one. I doubt very much he would have a Jewish character just be a random character unidentified as specifically Jewish. And Prouvaire being from the south, the surviving Protestant communities (crypto-Protestant in many instances) were southern. This generation is the first to start getting the Methodist missionaries and a real alternative to Calvinism.

This assumes, however, that Hugo's reference to the Freemasons was meant to imply a Protestant background for Prouvaire. (The Old testament focus of Isaiah might be meant to support it as well. Agrippa d'Aubigné was a Protestant, but by this point, his significance was to French literature as a whole, not his Huguenot background. Prouvaire's love for Agrippa d'Aubigné isn't necessarily a marker of religious ideology.)

In any case, anyone who attended seminary had the option of Hebrew studies. Learning Hebrew is an indication of nerdiness in a generally religious vein; it is not a marker of Judaism or Protestantism per se. Yes, I've been writing a Protestant Prouvaire, but I freely admit to a certain grasping at the flimsy straws Hugo provided.
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Re: Permit, dear readers, a digression... on Jehan.

Postby Ravariel » Tue Nov 08, 2011 5:07 am

Yeah, I realize that it's not definite at all--I just really like the idea. I have him mixing Catholicism and Protestantism to some extent, mostly because he finds the Catholic rituals beautiful but hates the way it's inaccessible/incomprehensible to the masses, and also partially because of his family.

May I ask how horribly unlikely it is that he could have a vaguely Catholic but not really religious father who married a vaguely Protestant woman with strongly Protestant relatives?
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Re: Permit, dear readers, a digression... on Jehan.

Postby MmeBahorel » Wed Nov 09, 2011 12:38 am

I can't imagine the family consenting to the marriage, but if it was during all the revolutionary upheavals, it could work. Citizenship rights were restored in 1790, but I don't know what marriage law required prior to the promulgation of the Napoleonic code in 1804. Under the Napoleonic code, her parents could block the marriage for quite some time, as they have to consent (until the age of 26; after that, they must officially not consent, then everyone has to go through a waiting period before the marriage can take place).

However, there was a tradition of crypto-Protestantism analogous to the crypto-Catholicism of England, so while her parents would very much prefer she marry an allied family, they may also consent to certain children marrying into well-placed Catholic families for external alliances/protection. But I think that would be somewhat more likely prior to 1790.
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Re: Permit, dear readers, a digression... on Jehan.

Postby Ravariel » Wed Nov 09, 2011 3:50 am

Since I place Jehan on the younger end of the amis, and he is an only child, it's not much likely that they're getting married before 1790 unless there is a quite long history of miscarriages/children who die in infancy. I had previously his mother as the last of many children who was at least on the verge of spinsterhood when she wed, daughter of a widowed father who was growing old and without much support, thus with M. Prouvaire's money as a reason for him to consent, if grudgingly, to the marriage of his daughter. Am I still grasping at straws/extrapolating to an extreme?
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The dying of time in the white light of tomorrow."
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Re: Permit, dear readers, a digression... on Jehan.

Postby MmeBahorel » Wed Nov 09, 2011 4:00 am

That can work. Especially if she is 26 at the time Prouvaire proposes marriage: at that point, if her father objects, there's a waiting period of about a month after the denial before the marriage is permitted to take place anyway. It's more complicated if she's younger.

http://www.placedauphine.net/projects/familylaw.html can help with some of the legal aspects, waiting period, etc.
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Re: Permit, dear readers, a digression... on Jehan.

Postby Ravariel » Wed Nov 09, 2011 4:02 am

Thank you very much! :)
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The dying of time in the white light of tomorrow."
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Re: Permit, dear readers, a digression... on Jehan.

Postby Enjolras-the-jaw » Wed Nov 09, 2011 4:25 am

So getting off topic slightly, I would like to change the focus. Not sure if anyone else has done this though so hopefully it will be in a different light.

So I was out a couple of days ago and I came up with these ideas, so I wrote them on the back of some papers for stuff about high-schools. Now that I have unnecessarily updated you on my life, here is what I came up with.

Please note: I will be calling Jehan, Jean for the duration of this entry, as his first name is very important. Jean Valjean will be just Valjean.

Not sure If anyone has noticed this connection, but Jean is the only Amis to have a first/ Christian name (although according to the last couple of comments, he could half Jewish). That is except for Marius. Marius is the main love story in Les Mis (sorry Enjy/R or Valjean/Fantine etc. shippers) and Jean is a romantic, much like what Marius becomes for the story. I'm even sure that some of you (I know I have) thought of an alternate scenario where Marius asks Jean for advice on Cosette.

Also, both Marius and Jean have similar family backgrounds and physical appearances. Jean is described as dressing badly, much like Marius, but because he is poor. Both are rather timid, but can get passionate at moments. Also, they both have Rich families, Jean has some of that wealth, Marius does not.

Finally, the big one, is that they both seem to have a knack for languages. Marius learns English and German on 10 francs, and Jean is fluent in Greek, Latin, Hebrew, and Italian. This shows strong mental ability and understanding of worlds outside their own. This could possibly be compared to Feuilly, but that's for another time.

Now on to the other point. This one however, I don't totally have all the answers. Jean and Valjean, both share a name, but seem very different. Some of their differences are: Jean is rich, Vajean is not. Jean is an only son, Valjean has a sister. Jean is a happy individual, Valjean is rather bitter. Jean is Romantic, Valjean has "Never know to have a sweetheart." Jean is killed, Valjean dies of old age. However, the truth may lie withing the fact that Prouviare contemplates Man and God's relationship, as does Valjean for his life. M. Myriel taught him this and he continued from there. Feel free to ad your own comparisons and ideas or just to critique mine! :D
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Re: Permit, dear readers, a digression... on Jehan.

Postby Col.Despard » Thu Nov 10, 2011 1:10 am

Given that Jean is one of the most common of French forenames (the equivalent of "John"), I don't think we need to read too much into both Prouvaire and the main protagonist having it in common. I think Hugo included it so he could add the medievalisation that was common in Romantic circles - i.e. Jehan duSeignuer. He was situating Prouvaire firmly in a particular group at that particular time.

I lean towards the Huguenot background for the reasons given above, but given his discourse on classical theology, I think his views probably lean towards a rather de Nervalesque view of the world. Compare this passage in Gautier's remembrances of de Nerval:

"Standing one day in front of the great fireplace in Victor Hugo’s drawing room in the Place Royale, Gérard was holding forth on his favourite subject, whirling together the Heavens and Hells of several quite different creeds with such studious impartiality that one of those present exclaimed suddenly:

“But Gérard, it’s perfectly obvious you don’t believe in any religion at all!”

“No religion at all? I have no religion? – I have seventeen religions – seventeen at least.” You may well imagine that such a profession of faith brought the discussion to an abrupt close. No one else in the company could boast such an extravagant wealth of belief.


With this passage from Hugo:

The third corner was delivered up to a poetical discussion. Pagan mythology was giving battle to Christian mythology. The question was about Olympus, whose part was taken by Jean Prouvaire, out of pure romanticism.

Jean Prouvaire was timid only in repose. Once excited, he burst forth, a sort of mirth accentuated his enthusiasm, and he was at once both laughing and lyric.

"Let us not insult the gods," said he. "The gods may not have taken their departure. Jupiter does not impress me as dead. The gods are dreams, you say. Well, even in nature, such as it is to-day, after the flight of these dreams, we still find all the grand old pagan myths. Such and such a mountain with the profile of a citadel, like the Vignemale, for example, is still to me the headdress of Cybele; it has not been proved to me that Pan does not come at night to breathe into the hollow trunks of the willows, stopping up the holes in turn with his fingers, and I have always believed that Io had something to do with the cascade of Pissevache."


You know I'm inclined to think that Jehan was inspired at least in part by de Nerval...I wonder if Hugo's description of Jehan in this scene is based on the same incident (or a similar one) that Gautier recalled...both were present for it, and were writing many years after the event (Gautier was writing in 1867, and it was a late addition to Hugo's drafts).
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Re: Permit, dear readers, a digression... on Jehan.

Postby AriadneIS » Wed Jul 18, 2012 2:46 pm

Wow. I might let it be said that when I finished reading this, I sort of stared at it in happy amazement. And then went off to read Isaiah.

Here's what I found and figured out -

I noticed that earlier in the thread, people mentioned that Jehan might see himself as the 'opposite of society', someone with different ideals who deliberately clashes. Going out on a bit of a limb here, but I'd say he views himself as a force of change. Whatever culture and society expects, Jehan takes pride in shaking those expectations.
That also could explain his willingness to become involved in the revolution - when society needs a change, and he cannot change it by simply being, he works with the rest of the Amis to change it more directly. That is, through outright rebellion of the laws and mores, not passive defiance by changing himself to change people's ideas.
That may also be what Hugo implied in saying that he was meek and quiet until he found something to say, and then became outgoing - Jehan prefers to change things by giving an example of what could be, leading from ahead. When no one follows, he has to push society from behind in a revolution, but it's more in his nature to give an example that shows a different way of being. (Hence the Romanticism.)
But back to his reading materials - looking through Isaiah (the only one of the four we had in the house) I found a lot to support that frame of mind. Though violent and a bit creepy, almost everything in there was about change. The cities that were destroyed, the civilizations that were rewarded - it was all about their cultures being flipped and turned around in one way or another.
I can't say that much for the rest of them, as I haven't had a chance to read through them yet, but it seems he was reading on the ways a civilization of society could change itself and be reborn in some other way.
This way of thinking is also what brings him closer to Enjolras, as they are both looking for change of life in some way.


Those are my opinions on what I've had time to read so far - this whole hypothesis might collapse upon looking again :D Any comments, disagreements, arguments are welcome!
This fandom is very well-read, and I'm glad to hear anyon'e opinions on this.


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