vendredi 11 janvier 2008

Did Joan of Arc sail aboard the Mayflower?




When Leonard Cohen wrote a song called Joan of Arc in 1970, I was a bit puzzled that an English speaking Canadian would be interested in this rather distant French historical figure.

For sure, Joan of Arc isn't exactly an everyday object of interest in America, no more than it is in France for that matter, but nevertheless, the few opportunities I've had to meet this character mentioned in the American press or books, it looks like there's some sort of sympathy -if not mild fascination- with this 19 year old maid who contributed decisively to oust the English out of XVth century France.

Ousting the English out of some territories... Hmmm... Is that music to American ears?

Also, Joan, from the very beginning of her self appointed mission, never failed to recall she heard divine voices telling her to deliver France and that God was always her inspiration. This religious component of her story certainly contributes to the interest and respect she may enjoy among such a religious people as many Americans are.

And who would have expected the great American writer, Mark Twain, to write an imaginary biography of the French national heroin?

Now, when I come across Joan of Arc when speaking with English people or when her name is mentioned in the British literature, I can feel some uneasiness, to say the least. The less she's talked about, the better it seems.

And I was wondering if Americans in general don't make a connection between the story of Joan of Arc and their own experience of English intolerance which eventually led their ancestors to leave England and settle in the new world.


23 commentaires:

Anonyme a dit…

Je trouve la dernier paragraphe de conclusion un peu hâtif. Pourquoi ne pas penser que les anglais ont toujours trouvé que leur petite île où il pleut tout le temps offrait moins de débouchés que le reste du monde ? Ce serait bien compréhensible.

Il m'est venu aussi parfois l'idée que si les Anglais étaient restés en France (i.e. si la loi salique et autres prétextes n'avaient pas été invoqués), ils seraient devenus français, un peu comme les Mongols ou les Manchous et bien d'autres avant eux sont devenus chinois. Et à cette heure, l'anglais ne serait pas plus parlé que le breton.

Quant à Jeanne d'Arc, en supposant qu'elle eût lieu d'exister dans ces circonstances, elle serait passée inaperçue et au fond, elle l'aurait mérité : il a fallu qu'un Michelet la fabrique pour que certains plus ou moins douteux ne lui donnent consistance.

Etchdi

KD a dit…

Hello Flocon and Etchdi,

I am going to try this in English and French.

I think the American Fascination with Joan of Arc is the fact that she said;that she was under the order of god.

America was found on breaking away with England and I think somehow the legends of Joan of Arc comfort them.

History unveiled in the USA, that it was time for the english to be out.


Je crois que la Fascination américaine avec Joan d'Arc est le fait qu'elle a dit; qu'elle soit sous l'ordre de Dieu.

L'histoire dévoilait aux Etats-Unis, que c'était le temps pour l'anglais pour quitter. Je crois d'une manière ou d'une autre que les légendes de Joan d'Arc les calment.

Obob a dit…

I go with kd. Both points are accurate. Plus my wife and I were married at beautiful St. Joan of Arc Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Mustang a dit…

I must say that you pose the most interesting questions. There was a time, not so long ago, when Americans had a particular fondness for the French — many still do. I remember learning about Joan of Arc; I admired her courage, and I detested those who conspired against her. Nostalgia — romance, call it what you will — but people from (almost) every culture have an affinity for the past. They recall the great stories from a different time because it makes them feel good, and perhaps because it allows them to dwell in a place other than the present. How else can we explain the great artists who envisioned life in a particular way in their marvelous paintings, sculptures, and symphonies? Even modern vineyards strive to recapture the standard of previous years. So I think the past gives us some pride about who we are today; this is why we prefer to ignore the ‘not so nice’ events of history and prefer the myth over reality.

How interesting the histories are of England and France. Consider that the conquest of England began in 1066 by a Frenchman. The battle for Paris was a war among Frenchman, was it not? And then consider that the official language at the Court of St. James was French. I do not see Jeanne d’Arc as much of an example of English perfidy as the work of greedy, callous men who happened to be related to one another, if not by blood then by marriage, and who thought little about the lives of the perceived “lesser” peoples as they waged their petty wars. Nor does it seem to me that the vaunted royalty has ever appreciated the devotion of those like Joan of Arc, who gave up their lives for what they perceived as a great ideal.

English intolerance did provide a catalyst for migration to the colonies, much as I suspect it did for those in France who undertook life in the French colonies. How amazing it is that the same “intolerance” reemerged during such momentous events as the Reign of Terror, and America’s Civil War. Or that it would manifest itself in the treatment of those who found a European boot on their colonial necks. It is not only true that we humans have learned little, but also that we are proud of it.

Flocon a dit…

Etchdi,

"Je trouve la dernier paragraphe de conclusion un peu hâtif"

Tu ne m'ôteras pas de l'idée qu'il y a du prof en toi ;-)

Effectivement j'ai écrit ce billet un peu trop vite et je sentais bien qu'il était cousu un peu n'importe comment. Particulièrement la conclusion en queue de cerise. Comme si j'étais pressé d'en finir, ce qui probablement était le cas.
J'avais une fin, pas terrible, et je m'en suis contenté, pas le courage de la reprendre...
Je vais essayer de trouver autre chose.

"si les Anglais étaient restés en France..."
J'ai depuis longtemps une idée de billet sur ce thème (avec Vikings, Normands etc.) auquel Mustang fait aussi allusion dans son commentaire.
Je le travaillerai un peu mieux.

Michelet et Jeanne d'Arc.
De fait, à quoi tiennent les grands mythes nationaux et jusqu'à la conscience de soi que peut avoir un individu quand il considère la nature de son adhésion à une collectivité dont les valeurs historiques sont telles ou telles...
Ah on est bien peu de choses...

Flocon a dit…

Hello kd,

"I think the American Fascination with Joan of Arc is the fact that she said;that she was under the order of god."

When I was pondering on this post I had the religious aspect in mind; and when I wrote it, I simply forgot to mention it.

Thanks for making this important comment. I've added the missing paragraph.

Thanks for helping me better this post.

Flocon a dit…

Hi obob,

"my wife and I were married at beautiful St. Joan of Arc Church"

I had no idea a church could bear this name in the US. And there are probably others I suppose.
I guess it's not the English who propagated the name Joan of Arc in America but the French colonists.
Anyway, I didn't expect this post to strike a personnal chord with you.
The bloggosphere is magic... ;-)

Flocon a dit…

Mustang,

"There was a time, not so long ago, when Americans had a particular fondness for the French — many still do."

And many don't anymore... lol!
I see a post in the offing (Monday?) about this specific topic you're mentioning Mustang.

"I do not see Jeanne d’Arc///.../// callous men appreciated the devotion of those like Joan of Arc"

You're certainly very right here; There's the legend on the one side and cold reality on the other side.

You show a good knowledge of this ancient period of French/English history. America's, England's and France's history are so intertwined!

"intolerance did provide a catalyst for migration to the colonies, much as I suspect it did for those in France who undertook life in the French colonies"

Whether you're refering to American colonies in the XVIIth, XVIIIth or African ones in the XIXth, some precision must be made here.
The French colonists weren't all motivated by religious intolerance in the mainland. Particularly in the XIXth.

Your suggestion would certainly apply at the time of the Edict de Fontainebleau (known in France as the révocation de l'édit de Nantes, 1685) which was the worst decision that was taken in about 2000 years of French history and which led to the immigration of hundred thousands French to Germany, Netherlands and America, yes.

As for the number who went to America I'll have to make some research about it.

Flocon a dit…

Etchdi,

C'est "la nature de son "appartenance" qu'il faut lire et non "la nature de son adhésion".

Et sur ta suggestion j'ai modifié la fin qui me paraît mieux clore le billet.

Anonyme a dit…

Le prof en moi est confus...

KD a dit…

Flocon, I had to bring the religious aspect into because it plays a large part in the mystery of Joan of Arc.

What is the joke in France?

I try to translate it correctly.

"The only meat the british did not boil"

I think they were commenting on british cooking. I heard this in the south of france.

Mustang!

I do agree with you, there are many Americans that hold a special fondness of the french. I know my French friends will be in America for 2 weeks at the end of Jan. They usually get a rock star reception for one simple fact. They do not tour the large areas and their whole goal is to see the smaller towns and cities. To really digest the culture.

We will see how it goes and I will tell Flocon about it. How their latest journey goes. I will tell of there ups and downs.

LASunsett a dit…

Hi Flocon,

//I had no idea a church could bear this name in the US.//

You may also be surprised to know that this very church has a French festival in September every year that really packs in the people. In fact, it's in an older part of the city, so parking is always limited and it's not uncommon to park on the street and walk for several city blocks to get to it.

My wife and I try to attend it every year. (We missed it last year) The food is not as good as we would get in France, but it's still pretty damned good. There is also a New Orleans flair to some of it, but not in all cases.

LASunsett a dit…

Hi KD,

//They do not tour the large areas and their whole goal is to see the smaller towns and cities. To really digest the culture.//

Do you happen to know where specifically, they go?

KD a dit…

Hello LA sunsett.

Our journey grew in the last month from 2 people to 12.

This time they will be spending most of their time in Appalachian Mountains.

They will visit Cherokee, NC

(Where I will accompany them on their quest to learn more about the Cherokee)

They will visit
Jonesborough, Tn (from the old state of Franklin) Which will be mostly a very small town with just old buildings, national story telling center and nice inns/restraunts.

Then to Cades Cove, National Park on the Tn side.

From their they will head down to Georgia and probably visit St.Marys.

Then central florida to a horse ranch.

4 years ago! They only visited small towns with one criteria. Under 10,000 residents and must have a Covered Bridge

That is about it, nothing really excited!

They do want to do a light house coast tour with small towns later!

KD a dit…

LA sunsett they are always good about returning the favor to me. I have been to parts of France that I would never thought of going without their assistance.

France really was fascinating after leaving Paris! (Although Paris is beautiful)

Flocon a dit…

LA,

This must be the church where obob married and that you're referring to...

http://tinyurl.com/2ser6m

LASunsett a dit…

Flocon,

//This must be the church where obob married and that you're referring to...//

You are correct, sir. That is the one. It's on the north side of the city.

LASunsett a dit…

KD,

//4 years ago! They only visited small towns with one criteria. Under 10,000 residents and must have a Covered Bridge//

Did that journey take you to Parke County, Indiana? This area has the largest concentration of covered bridges in the country. The county seat is a town called Rockville.

Anajo/Anijo/JoAnn a dit…

I've always thought that most of the story of Jeanne d'Arc must be wild fantasy with a grain of truth.

Your post has inspired me to pick up a book that I have, but have never read: "Les Procès de Jeanne d'Arc" by Georges et Andrée Duby.

Flocon a dit…

Joann

"I've always thought that most of the story of Jeanne d'Arc must be wild fantasy with a grain of truth."

Could it be that the Middle Age is so far away and long ago to Americans that they can't relate to that period which may evoke fairy tales and stories like those the English are so good at writing?

Walter Scott, Tolkien etc...

Just asking.

As Etchdi reminded, Joan of Arc as a myth, was created by a French historian of the XIXth, Jules Michelet. Until he called her out of oblivion, Joan of Arc was next to forgotten in France for the past 3 centuries.

Voltaire wrote a satirical piece on the character.

See here about the birth of the myth (its in French).

Anajo/Anijo/JoAnn a dit…

Flocon
No, my scepticism has nothing to do with what it is that I can or cannot relate to. I just require more proof and facts before I believe anything...
And anything that was written in the fifteenth century is to be read with a critical eye, no?

And I have read a lot as concerns Joan of Arc (Jeanne d'arc). I thus approach this topic not from an emotional point of view.

Flocon a dit…

Joann

"anything that was written in the fifteenth century is to be read with a critical eye, no?"

Indeed, specifically, the minutes of the trial have been scrutinized intensively, particularly by those on the English side who wanted evidence that said trial hadn't been biased and rigged.

You're hitting the nail on the head regarding the reliability of historical sources. It's a foundamental matter in all historical research.

Joan of Arc lived "only" 600 years ago. Now, imagine when we're talking Roman and even Greek history not to mention the ancient Egyptian... lol

em2histbuff33 a dit…

Try reading Joan of Arc's trial record for yourself. Barrets translation is available online at
Joan of Arc's Trial