Raillery & Revolution: Final Summary

Raillery & Revolution: Final Summary

     It is hard to believe that three whole months have passed since I embarked upon this research project, and that I have finally finished the process of transcribing, translating, analyzing, and writing on The Bibliothèque de Campagne. Last week my faculty advisor and I had our last conversation, during which we discussed the final product of my research project: a journal-length article of twenty-four pages. The discussion was extremely helpful to me, as my faculty advisor and I addressed the lingering questions I had about my essay. We spoke about my questions concerning the style and organization of my essay, specifically how I could conclude paragraphs without sounding repetitive. We also spoke about my questions concerning bibliography, and how to properly cite translated quotations from the Bibliothèque de Campagne in accordance with the Chicago Manual of Style. Additionally, we spoke about a concern I had with my argument, that I was making the overly simplistic claim that joke books directly caused the French Revolution. After examining the issue with my professor, I came to the conclusion that joke books couldn’t be wholly responsible for the French Revolution, but that they could reinforce the prevalent progressive ideas at the time and subsequently motivate citizens to seek change. Finally, I also discussed my claims in the section of my essay contextualizing my argument, referring to scholars Robert Darnton and Roger Chartier as opponents of my thesis. Overall, the conversation with my faculty advisor enabled me to polish my arguments and moreover, my essay, allowing me to conclude the final product of my research project.

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Raillery & Revolution: Continued, Post #3

Raillery & Revolution: Part III

      In the last leg of my research, I found that despite the many progressive jokes in the Bibliothèque de Campagne lambasting members of the First and Second Estates, there did exist a few, surprising witticisms which were not that radical. As it turns out, a few witticisms in the series were reactionary, as they made jokes at the expense of women. For instance, in one anecdote the writer amusingly explained the reason for which Jesus first appeared to a woman, his mother Mary, after resurrecting from the dead:

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“Every Joke is a Little Revolution”: Raillery & Revolution in Pre-Revolutionary France, Continued

       A few weeks ago, I came across the incisive observation made by George Orwell that “every joke is a little revolution” (Keane). As has become clear through my research, jokes like those in the Bibliothèque de Campagne do indeed resemble “little revolutions” because they rail against the status quo, conveying radical ideas about members of the First and Second Estates.

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Raillery & Revolution in the Bibliotheque de Campagne, ou Amusemens de l’Esprit et du Coeur

Raillery & Revolution in the Bibliothèque de Campagne, ou Amusemens de l’Esprit et du Coeur

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Abstract: Eighteenth-Century French Women and Humor

During the eighteenth century, a series of books called the Bibliothèque de Campagne ou Amusement de l’Esprit et du Coeur swept across France. This light-hearted series was enjoyed particularly by literate French women, and included poetry, romance novels, adventure stories, and joke books. One notable female reader who owned this series was Queen Marie Antoinette. Biographer Stefan Zweig called Marie Antoinette an “average woman… a lay-figure decked in queen’s robes” and argued that had it not been for her royal status and the French Revolution, she would not have become so influential. If Marie Antoinette did indeed represent the “average woman” and wield great influence, then her reading choices may shed light on what she found funny, but more importantly, what many other eighteenth-century literate women also considered humorous. According to historians Jan Bremmer and Herman Roodenburg, humor is crucial for providing “key[s] to cultural codes and sensibilities of the past.” By examining humor in the Bibliothèque de Campagne, I intend to to glean more information about the humor, values, and literary tastes of literate women. 

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