De l'autorité à parler, déclarations et révolution rhétorique de l'Ancien Régime à la Révolution française
- Spanning the Old Regime and the French Revolution, my dissertation examines the historical legitimacy of speech-acts by focusing on an enigma: how can we explain the shift from royal declarations, formulated under the sole authority of the king, to the popular, political declarations of the late eighteenth century, which were perceived as emanating from the general will? To understand this shift, I develop a theory of rhetorical space, drawing on Bourdieu's analysis of the legitimacy to speak and Foucault's definition of discourse. I suggest that early-modern France was characterized by three types of eloquence: religious eloquence, which governed social events such as Church sermons; regal eloquence, attributed to the king and those he authorized to speak in his name, such as judges and the Parliaments; and fictional and profane eloquence, defined by literary texts. I use the first two spheres to theorize the rituals of speech in early-modern French society. Not only did believers recognize the magic power of speech in the weekly Eucharist ceremony, but words had a direct impact in shaping the society. Indeed, the establishment of reputation, the practice of duels, pledges, and other courtly rituals were fundamentally bound up with words. For this reason, the literary sphere, and especially theater, could gain real political importance. On the one hand, theater is a profane art that can mimic sacred speech and question its authority. The legitimacy of religion and royal monarchy started to be criticized through plays. On the other hand, theater can give a voice to people who are not traditionally authorized to speak, such as lower-class people, women, or even slaves. Not only can these types of characters speak in the theater, but their utterances had a pragmatic effect on stage. In this sense, I claim that theater had a tremendous effect in liberating the voices of the spectators, and in transforming them into political actors. I argue that the royal and religious declarations that governed old regime society were based on displays of authority (following Aristotle's rhetorical definition of ethic and logic), whereas the political declarations at the end of the 18th century found their legitimacy in the display of feelings and emotions (in accordance with the pathetic proof defined in Aristotle's Rhetoric). The theoretical originality of my work consists in its focus on the staging of love declarations, which showcase a new perception of authority and of gender tensions. Using speech act theory (Austin, Searle) and recent work on the illocutionary force of emotive utterances (Reddy), I examine how a transfer of sacrality (as defined by Kantorowicz) enabled the king to transform external reality through his speech acts. These sacred/royal declarations publicly formulated by recognized figures of authority found a profane reflection in the private sphere via love declarations. In the 17th century, the lover praised his beloved through a courtly ritual of absolute devotion. Corneille's theater exemplified these human interactions, in which declarations had to be authorized. But the declaration of love was soon to undergo a dramatic change: Racine's tragedies contributed to the destruction of devotional love, and Marivaux' comedies ultimately gave a voice to people who were not authorized to speak, nor to express their love. This desacralization of love declarations gave birth to what I call a littérature de l'épanchement. A new voice arose, substituting the model of absolute love for that of a relative love (as found in works by Beaumarchais, Sade, and Laclos). This evolution in declaring love legitimized the utterance of the speech-act as an effusion of love rather than a display of authority. I suggest in conclusion that this literary and cultural process challenged the cohesion of a society founded on sacral authority. This approach helps explain the democratization of declarations and the rise of political declarations for and by the people at the end of the 18th century.
|Type of resource
|electronic; electronic resource; remote
|1 online resource.
|Stanford University, Department of French and Italian Literature.
|Gumbrecht, Hans Ulrich
|Gumbrecht, Hans Ulrich
|Statement of responsibility
|Submitted to the Department of French and Italian Literature.
|Ph.D. Stanford University 2013
- © 2013 by Jennifer Lorys Tamas
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