Gleams which pass

Meta related to characters, plots, or other elements introduced by Victor Hugo in Les Misérables.
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Marianne
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Gleams which pass

Postby Marianne » Fri Jun 11, 2010 8:10 pm

This is just a thread for random irrelevant one-off things that we've noticed in the text, and don't reeeeaally deserve their own post but are interesting to note.

Created because I was rereading Enjolras' introduction and noticed a few things:

- Hugo puts "Enjolras, THE MOST IMPORTANT ONE OF THEM BASICALLY, was an only son and was rich" not only first, but in a separate paragraph. Why? I am guessing, based on chats Marguerite and I have had about his symbolic role in the novel, that this is because Hugo wants to indicate that Enjolras has no successors, that he is literally unique (the French phrase for 'only child' is 'fils unique'), and that once the bourgeoisie have gunned him down, they have lost all hope of a continuous and untainted revolutionary/republican tradition. Wonder what that means about Hugo's thoughts on subsequent revolutions--the specter of communism, maybe? The July monarchy does represent a turning point in the revolutionary tradition, between 1830 and 1848, so maybe Hugo is using Enjolras to explore an alternate idea of the Republic, a continuation of early revolutions, the possibility of an alternate history where the July monarchy (and all it represented) never happened and communism was never necessary.

- And really, Hugo is laying the stress on the continuousness of it. As I think Despard said in one of our conversations in Paris, it's not that he's a copy or a reincarnation of Robespierre, it's that he's channelling the same ideas and the same revolutionary tradition that the Jacobins were, tapping into the same underlying vein if you will.

- The twenty-two years appearing to be seventeen. Hugo is not great with internal continuity, but he loves inserting references to historical events, which is often what fucks up his continuity. Am I crazy for thinking there is probably a Napoleon reference hidden in here? Does anyone have Significant Events of 1806 and 1811 (or 1805 and 1810 if you fiddle slightly with the date of Marius first meeting the Amis) that could explain this?

- "la gorge nue d'Evadne" - first of all, this is blatantly more sexual than most translations make it out to be, since "gorge" was a poetic way to say "cleavage" at the time. So it should be "the bare breast of Evadne" or something of the sort. Second of all, I think there was once a grammatical debate about how "la gorge nue d'Evadné ne l'eût pas plus emu qu'Aristogiton" should technically be translated as "the bare breast of Evadne would have moved him no more than Aristogeiton [would have moved him]," and for it to be "the bare breast of Evadne would have moved him no more than [it would have moved] Aristogeiton" the French would have to say "qu'à Aristogeiton." And as far as I can tell, this is BS. There's no reason for it to be "qu'à Aristogeiton." 'Émouvoir' takes a direct object, it's used with a direct object in the sentence ("ne l'eût ému"), and the 'à' would only be necessary with an indirect object ("ne lui eût ému," which is grammatically incorrect).

So, grammatical rambling aside... unless I am seriously missing something, that sentence should indeed be translated as "the bare breast of Evadne would not have moved him more than [it would have moved] Aristogeiton."

- This boy is so totally not straight. I don't know whether he's asexual or homosexual or flat-out revolutionsexual, but the whole point seems to be "beautiful with the terrible beauty of the Revolution, and all that beauty is RESERVED FOR SUBLIME AND SERIOUS BUSINESS, not for silly love affairs with grisettes." There's an argument to be made for a poeticized, symbolic idea of homosexuality: Enjolras is incomplete (and without heirs or successors) because he's narrowly focused and dogmatic and only interested in that which is like himself. But in any case, no girls, and certainly no girls who are not as dedicated and transcendentally republican as he is--it's like he's pre-emptively delivering SMACKDOWN on Mary-Sues.
[Dieu] entend ta voix, ô fille des hommes! aussi bien que celle des constellations; car rien n'est petit pour celui devant lequel rien n'est grand.
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Re: Gleams which pass

Postby Frédérique » Fri Jun 11, 2010 11:55 pm

1806 is pretty much general success on the eastern front, whereas 1811 is the beginning of the preparations for the Russian Campaign - when he is a 'young man of twenty' at the barricade, that takes us straight to 1812. I really hope that's not significant, though.


-
The local deputy, who nosed out all rivalry everywhere, soon began to grow uneasy over this religion. This deputy had been a member of the legislative body of the Empire, and shared the religious ideas of a father of the Oratoire, known under the name of Fouché, Duc d'Otrante, whose creature and friend he had been. He indulged in gentle raillery at God with closed doors. But when he beheld the wealthy manufacturer Madeleine going to low mass at seven o'clock, he perceived in him a possible candidate, and resolved to outdo him; he took a Jesuit confessor, and went to high mass and to vespers. Ambition was at that time, in the direct acceptation of the word, a race to the steeple. The poor profited by this terror as well as the good God, for the honorable deputy also founded two beds in the hospital, which made twelve.

(Apologies for using Hapgood; you get the point.) This fellow. This fellow (a thirty-percent-brother of Pardessus, maybe) never makes another appearance (does he?); as far as I can tell his purpose lies entirely in illustrating the general opinion on M. Madeleine and providing an opportunity for the narrator to comment on the good bourgeois tradition of keeping up (and running up!) religious appearances. Why does Hugo mention the connection with the 'legislative body of the Empire' and the minister of police? The deputy has two basic traits of the type Fouchéen: flexibility of attitude and thirst for influence (though not, apparently, the inspiration that enables his more successful counterparts to assure their own necessity in time, not to provide an answer to a question asked, but to turn himself into the answer before the question arises). And as such he serves ideally to reinforce that Javert, for one, being neither flexible nor personally ambitious, is not that stereotypically evil police agent at all. (Take that, Louis Madelin.)

- Does everybody in the book 'believe in' Enjolras? If we are to assume that other characters perceive Enjolras the same way the readers (of all shades and preferences) do (though they may not think of him in Hugolianly purple terms), he probably strikes them as a bit much - as an eccentric (perhaps sweet, perhaps pathetic) with whom you just cannot get a conversation going if you do not share his interests, as laughable, as hypocritical, or as absolutely enthralling and amazing. The question of whether or not there is anyone who doesn't 'buy him' is not really explored. If there is a comment on his unlikely strength of purpose, insusceptibility to distraction or the like, to any of his potentially de- or superhumanising traits, it is made by one of his friends and in good humour, certainly meaning neither to be disrespectful nor to call a bluff, possibly really to express genuine admiration in a comfortably casual way.
The readers never learn in depth how Enjolras actually appeared to an outsider (as in, on a level beyond Very Handsome - though his beauty is not something we ever get to hear another individual character think about explicitly, is it? there is no line in which anybody's thoughts are represented as acknowledging it, much less marveling at it, it's just that one line of the soldier's re: shooting a flower and the narrator's general reminders that he was Very Handsome), whether anyone ever a)laughed at him (as in, not the way his friends do, but actually refused to take him seriously because of the way he came across [as opposed to because of the opinions he holds]) or b)accused him of being a lunatic or a total hypocrite. Both of which are relatively understandable reactions if you aren't of the sort who is immediately struck by the ... well, you know the deal. But since the narrator evidently falls into the category who is pretty damn impressed by the you-know-the-deal, the only context in which the reader could have got a look at the effect of Enjolras on an outsider, someone newly introduced to him, is when Marius is shown into the back room of the Musain. (Well, and at the barricade, I guess.) But he is so overwhelmed by the group as a whole he does not, to the reader's impression, single out Enjolras at all, neither marveling expressly at the clarity and solidity of his convictions and the consequences he draws from them (of which Marius could certainly use a slice), nor being put off by his air of (inherent, not conscious) superiority, nor being confused by how he obviously differs from the loud and loquacious lot of them.
(It's really odd that there is no mention of a distinction in this context, because Enjolras is overwhelming/intimidating/bewildering in such a completely different way from the rest taken as a unit. I can see how it's terrifying walking into a room and facing Courfeyrac and Bahorel dueling each other with fresh baguettes while Bossuet lies on the table misquoting semi-related classic plays, Combeferre corrects him, Prouvaire tries to speak in favour of the concept of adaptation, and bystanders adapt shards of the weapons into an early dinner ... and yet it might be less so than walking into a room and finding it populated only by Enjolras, full stop.)
Other than that, we see him only through the eyes of the narrator, and these certainly belong to the enthralled party (and really seem to want to suggest that yes, deep down everybody did, even if the moment and development of the '!' is not described in any individual case except retrospectively for Grantaire). When his imperfection - or incompletion - is mentioned, the focus lies on a retrospective: we aren't told that Enjolras perhaps ought to listen to Combeferre a bit more often, we are told that he does and did. Whenever Enjolras comes under the scrutiny of the narrator, said scrutiny is not severely critically inclined, and the narrator never questions his genuinity or suggests that he could not be taken serious. That no character remarks on the matter in earnest at all is certainly unrealistic, and seems to suggest that Hugo is actively preventing it from entering into the reader's mind that there might be a pose, and be it the most innocent kind, not a cover for anything 'bad', but, well, yes, an acquired perfection of a natural talent (as opposed to his flawless charisma's being one hundred percent inspiration, his serving as a direct medium of the spirit of revolution). AND IN THAT POINT (and that is the context of the never-finished nine-month old post from which I ripped eighty percent of the above paragraph :P) he can be most effectively contrasted with (several real revolutionary figures, but really especially) Saint-Just, whose very achievement lies in having recreated himself in his image of a perfect Republican rather than having always been such.

- There are eleven consecutive lines in 5/Fifth/IV that have (as far as I can judge from having only the Péiade version's notes to compare) out of nowhere fallen into "Les Misères" when it grew into "Les Misèrables", namely those in which Gillenormand inquires whether Marius didn't have a friend and receives the response. Why did Hugo decide at a later date to break into the almost finished bliss of the given situation by bringing up a dead person ... then quickly burying him again?

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Re: Gleams which pass

Postby Aurelia Combeferre » Sat Jun 12, 2010 4:44 am

Speaking about the only son thing with Enjolras...is there also a reason maybe that Hugo makes the same note for Prouvaire? My sister and I were talking about Romanticism yesterday, and how it seemed to have moved on as an art movement not long after the 1830s. Now if we are to go on the premise that Prouvaire is something of the Romantic symbol in the text, could this be a historical note/tribute to Hugo's past as well?
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Re: Gleams which pass

Postby a_marguerite » Sun Jun 13, 2010 9:42 am

- re: Enjolras, fils unique

Actually my prof corrected me to add in that interpretation! I suggested that Enjolras's homosexuality was a way of breaking out a dualistic system of morality that Hugo disliked, as cold be seem with the socialist utopia speech about how, in the future, one would need neither Lucifer nor Michael, and he said, 'hm, maybe, but look at the way 'unique' is in a separate paragraph, and, in fact, is the first paragraph describing him. Your theory of this homosexuality seems more to be a point about how this revolution will have no successors. It is the only one.'

This leaves me a bit puzzled to be honest. I mean, from what I can recall of Graham Robb's section on 1848, Hugo really didn't like said revolution. He was a representative at the time and I suppose didn't think that this revolution was following in the spirit of '93. I'll dig my biography out and post again once I've re-read the passage.

But yeah, to the Enjolras channeling 1793. In Chatiments, Hugo makes a point of saying, "1793- it was necessary and justified by the circumstances, HOWEVER, we cannot let that happen again! Let philosophy guide us to a more peaceful revolution, of sentiment and morality instead of merely politics.' Ergo, I think it is important that Hugo pointed out that Combeferre completed and corrected Enjolras. It's his not-so-subtle symbolic way of showing that logic must be guided by philosophy.

-re: people's reactions to Enjolras

I don't think anyone ever fails to take him seriously. I mean, it can be justified with the line about, how like many important men at the beginning of the century, Enjolras was pale etc. and the comparisons to Saint-Just would suggest that Enjolras's youth in no one detracts from his seriousness of purpose, or what everyone else sees as his seriousness of purpose. Though here really, I think that Hugo was trying to make a point about how overwhelmingly attractive, logical and necessary revolutions were and so did present Enjolras/ the nineteenth century revolution, as something universally believable.

Ha! I love that mental image! But yeah- Enjolras is also an overwhelming figure, but I get the feeling that, though no one really looks down on him for his youth (the only time it's negatively brought up is with the gun argument with Gavroche, I think?), no one really realizes that this young, handsome, charming student does have such power. It's a Romantic contraction of sorts that allows Enjolras to spring into higher truth and, having found that truth, I think Hugo made the decision to symbolically have everyone believe it and follow it- as he believed the French people would do, if they were properly educated and had the same Romantic visionary mindset as he did!

-re; Gillenormand

I think that it's another statement on the bourgeosie to be honest. If there are unpleasant things, they must be forgotten and buried away as soon as possible. It's willful ignorance that Hugo seems to condemn the most among bourgeois readers, so it seems to me that he stuck that in there to say, 'you know those sacrifices others have made so that you could have a better future? You don't? That's because you've forgotten them. REMEMBER.' When you also take into account that Les Mis is also a long treatise on what does or does not make History, the whole idea of remembering gains importance. History is what those who survive remember, and if they wish to forget, then certain things (like revolutions) get buried under that willful ignorance. I think we are supposed to feel unsettled by the abruptness and the randomness of the passage. We're not supposed to be complacent and comfortable.

-re: Jehan

Hm, I'm not sure, since Hugo himself knew very well that the Romantic movement was still thriving after 1832. There might be something symbolic in that- perhaps to underline the similarities between the Romantic movement and revolution?- but I'm not sure what. If we go with the Jehan-was-based-off-of-Gerard-de-Nerval theory, then de Nerval was an only child- it might be possible that in attempting to flesh out the Amis, Hugo just picked and chose from among the characteristics of his friends.

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Re: Gleams which pass

Postby MmeBahorel » Mon Jun 14, 2010 12:02 am

Re: Graham Robb on Hugo in 1848

I'm in that part right now, actually, and Robb believes that Hugo was v. confused by 1848. He sort of understood the whole thing, but he really would have preferred a different solution - which is part of why he was an early supporter of Louis Napoleon (before that whole "I need the state to pay my debts so I'll declare myself emperor" thing). I love Robb's characterisation of the whole thing: "a man who had the courage of his lack of conviction, who found the only logical solution to a moral dilemma [the disconnect between his belief that the people sort of had a point and that what they were doing in the June Days was absolutely wrong] in a three-day-long suicide attempt." He went barricade to barricade, begging insurgents to give themselves up and ordering the artillery to fire when they did not - but he thought the people were merely misguided in their tactics on this occasion.

There's nothing to do with the original revolution prior to Louis Napoleon getting elected (which is where I'm at right now). Now, admittedly, Robb is attempting to take this in proper chronological order, which is difficult as Hugo kept re-writing just what he had done and what his opinions had been in 1848. If anything, Hugo comes across as a monarchist at heart, what with the suggestion of a Regency of the Duchesse of Orléans - as much as he believes in an idea of "the people", he wants a royal or imperial hand on top of them, or so my reading of this section of Robb goes. If there's a historical comparison to be made, after the Regency idea is shot down, Hugo is looking for another Napoleon because he needs that single head at the top of the pyramid, and he's flailing until he finds it. 1848 became much more interesting once it all collapsed about his own head (which it was rather doing all the time, not just in hindsight).

As for the initial point that all this is coming from: I think the publication date is still a little too early for spectre of communism and obviously, until 1871, France didn't see what the "spectre of communism" really meant. Really, the Commune was the first outright socialist victory, and even by then, you start getting the even "worse" strains, the anarchists and nihilists that were the terrorists through the next few decades. The reissue that got people actually reading the Communist Manifesto was the year after the Commune, after all. Some of the major radical groups hadn't even been founded by 1862. It all just feels a bit early to me.

Re: Enjolras' potential dates of birth

Hugo also tends to inject his personal history into things: 1811 is the year he spent in Spain as a child, actively torn between father and mother, sent to school where he was addressed as "Vicomte", and developed a mad crush on the Marques to Montehermosa's 16 year old daughter, who was in some ways the model of female beauty he held to all his life. I wonder if there was something in the battle between the Napoleonic General Hugo and the way his wife started acting more and more the Royalist as they fought over their collapsed marriage. It was most actively lived in 1811, after all, with everyone in the same town. Robb definitely characterises that year as a heavy influence in Hugo's adult life, though in subjects that would seem far from the creation of Enjolras. Still, Valjean's possible age range when first introduced relates to Hugo's mother as well as to Napoleon, which is why I even consider this route.

Also, in addition to the preparations for Moscow, Spain was falling apart in 1811. Not rapidly, but the Peninsular War had begun, the French were on the defensive, and the local Spanish allies were not so thick on the ground once the British competition had landed.
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Re: Gleams which pass

Postby Marianne » Mon Jun 14, 2010 12:33 am

Re: hobgoblin of communism: well, yes, but Hugo was already coming around to socialist views while writing LM, and it is set just before all the proto-communist movements really got into motion. Surely the red flag (and Bahorel's line about "the reds") is important somehow. At any rate I am pretty sure Enjolras is meant to symbolize a 'pure' form of the republican tradition that represents a diversion from the path taken during the July monarchy, and avoids the disillusionment of 1848, but I am not sure exactly what it would consist of in terms of the political movements of the time. And I am slightly drunk and just sat through three hours of Madalena Alberto trying to sing and Jon Robyns trying to be Enjolraic, which means I probably shouldn't be posting because nothing coherent is coming out.
[Dieu] entend ta voix, ô fille des hommes! aussi bien que celle des constellations; car rien n'est petit pour celui devant lequel rien n'est grand.

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Re: Gleams which pass

Postby MmeBahorel » Mon Jun 14, 2010 1:49 am

Yes, the references to "reds" are important, but what I was reading from your phrasing was that everything after Enjolras was crap, that he was the last pure revolutionary before the communists turned it all to hell, which is a very post-Commune POV (the Communists turning it all to hell). That's just how I was reading your initial comment, and also reading the idea that without the July Monarchy, communism wouldn't be necessary as a condemnation of communism, which strikes me as anachronistic for Victor Hugo in 1862. If I'm making any sense.
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Re: Gleams which pass

Postby brittlesmile » Mon Jun 14, 2010 1:56 am

Just some thoughts regarding why everyone "buys in" to Enjolras:

It could be a way of enforcing the necessity of the revolution that he is meant to represent. Enjolras inherits the mantle of the Republican Ideal that the Revolution created. We do not get an outsider perspective on him because it is impossible to exist outside of (or untouched by) that ideal. Although in real life, it is hard to believe that everyone would believe in him, because Enjolras is not a real person in the context of the book, but rather a symbolic ideal, it makes sense. It seems like Hugo is saying, "We all agree these are good ideals. Can you now see why this is necessary?" So allowing for someone who does not, in fact, agree that these are good ideals would undermine the necessity of the revolution.

(Sorry if this is a bit hard to follow. I didn't have time to properly organize my thoughts)
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Re: Gleams which pass

Postby sophiedegrouchy » Tue Jun 15, 2010 7:43 pm

-Re: revolutionsexual
There's nothing here that we haven't already hashed out a dozen times before, but have a few assorted thoughts that I've had lately concerning how or why Enjolras isn't, and can't be, straight.

Whenever I read about a character who devotes his energy to x instead of women, my mind shoots to the 20th century Spanish poet/playright Federico García Lorca, who is of course too late for our purposes but makes a useful tool for analysis. FGL, himself gay (a "crime" for which he found himself on the wrong end of a firing squad as Franco was coming to power), believed that the role of homosexuals in society is to create art, seeing as they aren't able to make the normal contribution of children. Especially given our recent swing towards the French Romantics, it's not at all hard to substitute revolutionary destruction/creation for the artistic kind. Without any intention of participating in the normal sort of procreation, Enjolras' child - his fils unique, as it were - is the revolution. (Interestingly, by this way of looking at this, it wouldn't much matter if he had 20 siblings, as artistic creation has to be an entirely personal thing, not a mantle that a brother could pick up or a genetic trait to pass along, but I think at this point I'm just rambling.)

All of this then has to bring us straight to Plato's Symposium, which Marguerite has played with a bit but probably deserves a bit more exploration in a Hugolian/Enjolraic context. I made a couple of jokes about gay sex for the good of the people a while back on LJ, but the actual message goes more like this: Sex with women is kinda necessary but mostly a pain and not a noble act. Real love starts when a man falls for a beautiful boy. From the love of a single beautiful body, he learns to love all beautiful bodies, and then all beautiful things, and then beauty itself. By the end, love is this huge, kinda impersonal, creative act, and Socrates is pregnant with beauty and then drunks are crashing the party and trying to seduce him and seriously you should read this book because it's a riot (when it's not busy being tragic). But the point is that the idealization of homosexuality-bordering-asexuality (or maybe asexuality-bordering-homosexuality) as this weirdly powerful creative force has reeeeally deep roots. I'm frankly surprised that Hugo never alludes to Plato in this context (unless I just missed it, which is very possible) because the ties seem so obvious with regards to Enjolras being so explicitly gay-but-not.

As a side note, this Platonic approach is the only one in which I can actually almost picture Enjolras realistically in slash. Socrates doesn't actually condemn sex; he just refuses to have it with someone who misses the point. Love can't be about physicality, or about being able to brag about having laid claim to someone, or even really about personal emotions. Again, it's vast and creative. Maybe, had Alcibiades (the guy lusting after him) learned his lesson and been to reach that transcendent level of love, Socrates would have slept with him in a (har har) non-Platonic sense. Maybe not. I don't know too much about his philosophy, so any further speculation would probably be infringing on the territory of Plato fanfic, and I don't think I'm ready to take that step. But in any event, perhaps Enjolras could have some sort of physical relationship with someone who "got it" (which I'm doing a lousy job of explaining, but hopefully some of the idea is coming through) without diminishing the redirected creative power of his sexuality. Hugo wouldn't buy it, but Plato probably would. Mind, as we all know, Plato Was Wrong, so there goes all of that. :lol:

What this all boils down to (if I do indeed have any sort of point to make) is that's so easy to focus on Enjolraic purity, but without remembering his virility, he becomes the marble statue that Grantaire and so many fic writers accuse him of being. But if you accept all the idealized artistic norms about energy, purity, etc, then it becomes clear that that virility has to go somewhere, and for him, it's the cause.

But I really do like your professor's expansion of "fils unique," Marguerite, which fits into all of this beautifully. His child/creation, the uprising, was evidently stillborn, and there is no one else who could try to take his place. Would that then support your (other?) professor's claim that I seem to remember reading (but could be making up) - that how, within the text, the thing that truly damns the July Monarchy is that it gunned down such an angelic, messianic figure? Not only did they kill an archangel - they killed the only one, and the only one who will ever be.

-A true, random passing gleam:
I just finally started in on Toilers of the Sea (how many people here have actually read it?) and found this interesting little gem at the beginning of XXII: Kind-Heartedness of the Inhabitants of the Islands.
They are a noble little people with large souls. They possess the spirit of the sea. They assume a certain supremacy over la grand' terre, the mainland. They look down upon the English, who in their turn, are sometimes disposed to disdain "those three or four flower pots in that bit of sea." Jersey and Guernsey reply: "We are the Normans, and it is we who conquered England." We may smile at this, but we also cannot fail to admire it.

I just had to giggle. I wonder what sort of little joke Hugo is playing, or perhaps just continuing to riff on, with grand' terre/Grantaire/R. Did Grangé become Grantaire over something Hugo heard while in Guernsey, or is this meant to be a tiny, coy little reference to a past character? I'm of course tempted to read more into it, what with the themes of admiration and disdain, but that would probably be just some flimsy overanalyzing of what is likely at most a bit of fun.

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Re: Gleams which pass

Postby Aurelia Combeferre » Wed Jun 16, 2010 6:18 am

*tries to stop her epistaxis from reading above posts*

I suppose the thinking that Enjolras could only have a physical relationship with someone who *got it* would be a good justification for Enjolras/Combeferre slash (if that was even possible). And that was kind of the premise I wanted to use for a certain romance I wrote some time back.

Whether one takes Enjolras as a creative, virile man, or simply as a symbol of revolution damns the July Monarchy either way. Either one has killed a social artist or a revolution itself.

The principle of "social artistry" (as an acquaintance tried to explain it to me some time back") would be raising the condition of society towards "that which is beautiful"---in the context of our conversation, it meant the dignified and ideal, more than just abolishing ills in a community, but raising the thinking and lifestyle of the people. It wouldn't be enough just to force Charles X off the throne, but it would be important to restore the right (whether this meant social justice or the Republic).

This sounds a bit like Enjolras' line: "to subdue matter is the first step, to realize the ideal is the second".
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Re: Gleams which pass

Postby MmeBahorel » Mon Mar 05, 2012 4:50 am

A bit on Feuilly (and Lesgle):

Recall that all the boys except Lesgle were from the South - this includes Feuilly.

I'm reading The Identity of France by Fernand Braudel right now, and he brings in from Hervé Le Bras and Emmanuel Todd's L'Invention de France a discussion of the geographic spread of family systems that is really fascinating.

To begin, there are three distinct family systems in Western Europe: the nuclear family (husband, wife, children), the vertical extended family (parents, children, grandchildren) which usually results in only the eldest son marrying and inheriting and the collateral children shunted off outside the family line, and the horizontal extended family (parents, children, children's spouses, grandchildren) which often gives rise to clan formation, as the families of the children's spouses are also brought into the family fold. The nuclear family was primary in English; the vertical extended family was primary in Germany; the horizontal extended family was primary in Italy. France is the only polity where all three family types could be found at once.

The vertical extended family was generally seen in Britanny, Flanders, and Alsace - the fringes of France proper. What is very interesting is that the divide between regions where the nuclear family was primary and regions where the horizontal extended family was primary nearly follows the langue d'oïl/langue d'oc division. The south, where the langue d'oc languages was spoken, was also very, very heavily a region where the horizontal extended family predominated.

So when Feuilly, lacking any family at all, takes the nation as his family, at a time when nationalist sentiments were still in their infancy, is very much following some sort of social pressure in his upbringing, this need for extended family. Hugo of course did not mean this, but it's a very interesting bit of sociology, the number of ways the north/south divide is constantly reinforced despite the variables used. The cultural divide goes back not centuries but possibly millennia.

There's an interesting bit with Lesgle on this, too. The Paris basin has been a stronghold of the nuclear family at least as far back as the 16th century. Cited research by Micheline Baulant on the countryside around Meaux discusses the fragility of this family structure. "If a family was broken up by the death of one of the spouses, it meant immediate isolation, desolation, economic collapse and disaster, making life impossible."

Lesgle follows this almost precisely even down a generation (though we don't know if his mother survived his father - this could well be her tragedy as well). A death in a nuclear family (he is the only representative from a nuclear-family region) leads straight to economic collapse and disaster, moderated by what is essentially an imported southern clan of friends. Hugo could never have intended it, as these studies were quite recent when Braudel was citing them in the early 1980s, but he has hit upon the absolute perfect link between character and historical average.

There may well have been something in the general consciousness, not backed up by demographic studies, that led to these references on Hugo's part. After all, the line of family structure follows lines of language, climate, roofing style, witchcraft, prostitution, crop rotation, inheritance patterns - the list goes on.

Incidentally, this has nothing to do with Enjolras or Prouvaire as only sons - they almost certainly have cousins and would be expected to marry into appropriate families where they would likely have brothers in law to ally with in their generation as well. But it may be something to keep in mind when writing, this prevalence of the horizontal family structure in the South. (It doesn't carry over to the Auvergne, but it's all over the coast and all of Gascony and Savoy if I've ready the maps right.)
What kind of literature and what kind of life is the same question. - Tom Stoppard

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sophiedegrouchy
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Re: Gleams which pass

Postby sophiedegrouchy » Wed Mar 14, 2012 8:25 am

Y'know, I think I'm going to push back on the fils unique/stillborn-revolution-with-no-heirs bit. (Because it's not like it's been close on two years. Or like it really deserves its own thread :lol: )

For me, the whole bit about the funky ahistoricity of Hugo's 1832 is that it's meant to announce or usher in future revolutions (which may or may not need to be violent), because it's not actually about some specific event. Sure, it's sad that everyone dies, but it's not really a defeat or setback. It's somehow seeding the future. Otherwise, why would he put such beautiful energy into describing the bright dreams of progress? Out of nostalgia for something that never really happened...? If Enjolras is this otherworldly figure who embodies bits of Sparta and Cromwell and 1792 and whatever else, it really should take more than a pretty minor riot to kill the guy's spirit off.

If Marx were really a problem for him, I think he'd have made it more explicit. I think there's one oblique dig at Communism in "Cracks in the Foundation," but I can't think of anything beyond that. Doesn't mean it's not there, though, and I'd be happy to see more catty Marx-bashing if it is in the text.

((Oh and hey look - I was playing around with Enjolras and Plato before. I just didn't think to extend it to Grantaire. Huh.))

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Re: Gleams which pass

Postby MmeBahorel » Thu Mar 15, 2012 3:15 am

It's too early for Marx-bashing. It's really closer to the Commune that you get more attention paid to the Communists (as opposed to the Socialists); only around then do you have more people actually reading The Communist Manifesto - and a huge spread of it in the wake of the Commune. 1862 is just too early for Hugo to bother attacking Marx. (Also, Hugo wasn't really in with the exile community of 1848 that actually knew Marx. Ok, yes, I'm sort of pulling that from Coast of Utopia, but I've read the source material and there aren't connections there, and Robb describes no serious connections between Hugo and Ledru-Rollin. Hugo was not actually as radical as the government in exile in London, so I find it even plausible that Hugo had no strong conception of Marx and what would later become Marxism at the time he finished LM. Marx couldn't be a problem for Hugo this early.)
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Re: Gleams which pass

Postby sophiedegrouchy » Thu Mar 15, 2012 5:57 am

What I had in mind: "Communism and agrarian law think they have solved the second problem [i.e. to distribute wealth]. They are mistaken. Their distribution kills production...To kill wealth is not to distribute it." Am I wrong in conflating Communism with Marx? Hugo uses both "socialism" and "communism" in the same chapter in such a way that I read as indicating that they're distinct things. And he does use Marx-y words like "proletariat" etc - but my Marx admittedly isn't good enough to know to what extent KM's unique/original and to what extent he's riffing on already-established ideas/terms.

(Funny enough, the historicity of CoT came up informally in my life...last night. I jokingly posted to facebook, "How does one interpret the phrase 'the family owned only 500 serfs'?" in the context of Bakunin, and the thread ended with someone saying (copy-paste, here), "wait a goddamned minute, joyce, tzara, and lenin WEREN'T all hanging out in zurich together? i feel betrayed!" Tee.)

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Re: Gleams which pass

Postby MmeBahorel » Fri Mar 16, 2012 12:24 am

After a bunch of googling to check dates (as in Marx's The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte did not have a French translation published until 1900), I realised I should have just started with a Google books search on "communisme" limited to 1847-1862.

It was in the general consciousness in 1848-1849 (which is why Marx wrote his Manifesto). A definition by Louis Morin goes "Communism is nothing more than a dream. If you want a more precise idea, take all the speeches given at the club des jacobins; join with them Babeuf's reflections; mix in Saint-Simon's ideas and Fourier's theories; to all that add a strong dose of exaggeration and puerility; mix it all together, and you will have communism." He goes on later with "Complete equality, abolition of property, fraternal community of all things between men, such are the three or four words, three or four ideas that form the base of communism."

So yes, you are wrong in conflating communism with Marx, but that's because he very successfully hijacked it in the very late 1860s when he ended up controlling the First International and then in the 1870s-1880s had a bunch of stuff start to get translated into languages other than the original German. Marx was great at taking over a pre-existing idea, and yes, he did refine it substantially with Das Kapital, but he was totally riffing on something other people were riffing on at the same time. (The Morin is from 1848 as well.)
What kind of literature and what kind of life is the same question. - Tom Stoppard


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