CULTURE AND SOCIETY IN FRANCE 1848-1898: Dissidents and Philistines by F. W. J. Hemmings

CULTURE AND SOCIETY IN FRANCE 1848-1898: Dissidents and Philistines

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Hemmings (Professor of French at the University of Leicester and the author of studies on Balzac, Stendhal, and Zola) synthesizes half a century of French culture around the theme of persistent estrangement and hostility between artist and society as seen in the works and lives of Flaubert, Hugo, Baudelaire, Courbet, Manet, Daumier, et al. Beginning with the disenchantment which followed the 1848 revolution (when the intelligentsia had momentarily embraced the surging peuple), Hemmings follows the evolution of the artist as pariah, eccentric, aesthete, and dissident -- consciously distancing himself from the philistine public of the Second Empire and the faute de mieux Third Republic. From the satirical lithographs of Daumier and Flaubert's dour misanthropy to Hugo's assaults on the regime of Napoleon le Petit -- the intellectuals' quarrels with the ""age of kitsch, of elegant rubbish"" are dissected with an empathic regard for their impatience toward the meretricious moralisms, the frivolities of popular taste, and the ruling academic dogma. A close scrutiny of the debilitating and capricious censorship of Napoleon III's ""blue-pencil regime"" sets the stage for the disaffection of the years to come; the Salon des Refuses where the early impressionists clustered to nurse their scorn for the conservative Ecole des Beaux Arts is viewed as both an assault on the caste taboos which rejected their canvases and a retreat into a fraternity of outcasts. More balanced and less idiosyncratic than Cesar Grana's Bohemian vs. Bourgeois (1964), Hemmings' study is also broader in scope and better informed on the political history of the period. A gracious, scholarly, and intriguing mapping of this variegated 19th century terrain.

Pub Date: June 7th, 1972
Publisher: Scribners