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Defining France Forum Texts that seek to change social / cultural mindsets

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  2. Texts that seek to change social and cultural mind sets - Nic, Sophie & Alice
    Molière’s Tartuffe - Alice

    Act I, Scene V
    Mocking of religious hypocrisy

    •  « C'est un homme… qui… ha… un homme… un homme enfin. Qui suit bien ses leçons, goûte une paix profonde, Et comme du fumier, regarde tout le monde/Oui, je deviens tout autre avec son entretien, Il m'enseigne à n'avoir affection pour rien; De toutes amitiés il détache mon âme; Et je verrais mourir frère, enfants, mère, et femme, Que je m'en soucierais autant que de cela. »

    • •« Chaque jour à l'église il venait d'un air doux, Tout vis-à-vis de moi, se mettre à deux genoux. Il attirait les yeux de l'assemblée entière, Par l'ardeur dont au Ciel il poussait sa prière: Il faisait des soupirs, de grands élancements, Et baisait humblement la terre à tous moments »

    • Background: Tartuffe advises Orgon on how to behave in church and in worship. He seems to instil anti-Christian ideals, encouraging Orgon to behave with a lack of logic, reason or sentiment. Orgon, in this scene, recounts Tartuffe’s words of instruction to Cléante. Orgon’s belief is resolute.

    • Change in mind set: Despite Orgon’s complete infatuation for him, readers begin to unearth Moliere’s view of the church’s hypocrisy. Tartuffe is blasphemous, introducing fallaciousness into religion. Moliere therefore conveys to the audience the possibility that what they have been told by religious clerks may not be true, trustworthy, or relevant. The belief that all Christian lessons carry absolute truth is challenged. Tartuffe seems to introduce a false element into prayer and devotion: as Moliere focuses on aesthetic qualities in his description, Tartuffe seems to be a distraction and removes sense of grace for others. “Drawing the eyes of all the congregation”.

    • Reason for change in play: Tartuffe wants to gain power and strengthen relations with other high-up members of society. By preaching his religious knowledge and affiliation, others see him as a useful addition to social circles. He presents himself as a model of piety through his lies and hypocrisy – gaining popularity and admiration as a consequence.

    • Playwright’s reason for change: Moliere became known for calling for uprightness and transparency. He praised integrity and honesty. Overall, Moliere seems to preach a type of personal Christianity that eschews outward shows of piety meant to impress others and earn wealth or power. The Roman Catholic clerics of Moliere's time might have deemed the playwright was an atheist, or at least a lax Catholic. This is not true, of course; they struggled simply to grasp the true message of Moliere's play. Moliere attempted to marry the Christian and the pagan together, infusing Humanism into his work.

    • Form: Tartuffe masters the imitation of Orgon’s behaviour to gain his trust. He copies the physicalities of Orgon’s worship. Using simple outward gestures, he feigns body language to fit in. This eradicates any sense of inward devotion and adopts an excessive and superficial style.

    • Secondary reading –

    o Kierkegaard and the Renaissance and Modern Traditions: Literature, drama ... - edited by Jon Bartley Stewart
    o “Moliere rigorously attacked religious fanatism, religious hypocrisy and the abandonment of individual reason in Tartuffe. He did not claim the falsification of religion per se, rather he criticised the use of religion for egotistical purposes”

    o The Misanthrope, Tartuffe, and Other Plays - By Molière, Maya Slater
    o “True, his play mocks at Tartuffe, his religious hypocrite; but the main butt of his satire is the genuinely religious man, Orgon”

    Act II, Scene 4
    Breaking with social order

    • « Elle quitte Mariane et court à Valère. Encor ! Diantre soit fait de vous si je le veux ! Cessez ce badinage, et venez çà tous deux. (Elle les tire l'un et l'autre.) »
    • « Vous êtes fous tous deux. Çà, la main l'un et l'autre. Allons, vous »
    • « Quel caquet est le vôtre ! Tirez de cette part ; et vous, tirez de l'autre. (Les poussant chacun par l'épaule.) »

    • Background: This scene is one of the most comical, including the trope of an argument between lovers. In the scene, Valere vows to leave several times. He never follows through with his promise; seemingly, he is waiting for Mariane to recall him, testing her through a psychological game of cat and mouse. Both are acting and pretending, wanting the other to be the first to leave. This is interrupted by Dorine running across the stage.

    • Change in mind set: Dorine runs across the stage, at the culmination of a highly physical scene. She joins the hands of Valere and Mariane together. This act of role reversal is furthered by her vocal protests – she orders her two superiors to be together and physically drags them to be so. The social ladder is then inverted.

    • Structure: To-and-fro dialogue of V & M, broken up to show weakness of upper class characters as they struggle in romantic farce controlled by the top of the family

    • Form: Dorine gains power as servant through the physicality of running across the stage, taking hold of each character and joining their hands. Dorine has command of the stage. The form is dynamic and allows her to become a physical agent of change.

    • Reason for change in play: Dorine, despite being of the working class, maintains a maternal role in this scene, from her age and experience. If she perceived the pair to be similar to her children, she would give herself the authority to act above her social rank here. Dorine is able to enact change as she is frank and direct, with a clear perspective of the events in the play. She is not afraid to voice her views, distinguishing herself from any typical 17th century servant. As her role as a maid does not bear any influence over how she acts or speaks, she is able to challenge the social hierarchy that the audience would believe to be ingrained into society. As a female character, her independence and ability to challenge the status quo makes her strong, opinionated, and driven.

    • Playwright’s reason for change: Moliere may use Dorine in a sarcastic manner to show his audience that a wealthy smart master (Orgon) is unable to identify the true nature of a person, while a poor and perhaps uneducated servant can easily tell who is a hypocrite.

    • Secondary reading –

    o Rivalry and the Disruption of Order in Molière's Theater - Michael S. Koppisch
    o “The two servants, Dorine and Torette, both make fun of their masters”
     Plays on the rise of the working/lower classes, who seemingly have more inside knowledge and common sense
     Source emphasises Dorine’s ability to break with order and how that brings an element of comedy into the play

    o The Molière Encyclopedia - James F. Gaines
    o “Dorine’s intervention reunites the lovers, and undermines Tartuffe”
     Dorine is a force for good, working against the hypocrisy of Tartuffe
     Woman viewed to destabilise a man – powerful character

    Tartuffe as a moralising text
    Act IV: I

    • • “Supposons que Damis n'en ait pas bien usé, Et que ce soit à tort qu'on vous ait accusé: N'est-il pas d'un chrétien, de pardonner l'offense, Et d'éteindre en son cœur tout désir de vengeance?”

    • Background: Cléante confronts Tartuffe about his actions. They begin by discussing the previous fallout between Damis and Organ, before Cléante admits the rumours are moving through social circles. Hypothetically, Cléante questions if Tartuffe should forgive him as a repentance-believing Christian and allow him to reclaim the lost inheritance. Tartuffe perceives it to be impossible as divine fate orders him not to forgive Damis, yet Cléante finds this difficult to believe as he considers that one should always do the right thing, no matter what.

    • Change of mind-set: Demonstrates errors of society so that the audience is able to review, modify and correct their ways. Morally, Tartuffe should do unto others what he would have done to himself. He is ignoring this golden rule, so Moliere highlights the erroneousness and sin so viewers, unlike Tartuffe, will forgive and not be vengeful.

    • Structure: Dialogue allows duplicity to arise. Exchange of comments, do not have to give evidence

    • Form: 5 act structure allows moral of story to arise gradually after series of events – view problems/flaws emerge

    • Playwright’s reason for change: Playwright once said « Nothing corrects men better than a painting of their faults” so criticism becomes key to teach correct/new behaviours

    • Secondary reading

    o Robinet, Lettre en vers à Madame du 9 février 1669
     Positive response – work of art
     Charms devouts, ridicules hypocrites – benefits society through these lessons and messages
     No other comedy as popular – proven in later text
     Going beyond genre expectations

    o Moliere – Arthur Tilley
    o “For in that play, as Moliere points out in the preface, the contrast between Tartuffe and the truly good and religious man is made so plain that the most malicious free-thinker could find no handle in it”


  3. Changing of social/cultural mindsets: La Déclaration des Droits de l’Homme

    Examples of Document Attempting to change social/cultural mindsets (Mainly politically focused):
    - “Les représentants du Peuple Français…” Assumption that they are the representation now, shift of representation from a king embodying France to representation by representatives, marking a shift of who the main element of the country is
    - “Les droits naturels, inaliénables et sacrés de l’homme” Idea of every man having their own rights which they are entitled to- enlightenment thought development, placed in text makes it more believable and widespread to more than just intellectuals
    - “…en presence et sous les auspices de l’Etre supreme…” – Religious ideas still have some pertinence, however rather than reffering to God, it refers to a more open supreme being
    - “Art 1.- Les homes naissent et demeurent libres et égaux en droits”- First line is again link between individual and the state and establishes the importance of this link
    - Art 6. “Tous les citoyens ont droit de concourir personellement, ou par leurs Représentants, à sa formation”- Again, enshrinement of right to be representative within oneself, very different from royal autocracy which preceeded by birth right
    - Art 11. “ La libre communication des pensées et des opinions est un des droits les plus précieux de l’Homme: tout citoyen peut donc parler, écrire, imprimer librement , sauf à répondre de l’abus de cette liberté dans les cas déterminés par la loi”- Freedom of printing enshrined in this printed document, which is different to the more censured printing culture that preceded.

    The mass production element of this printed pamphlet makes it easily widespread, and this format lends itself well to the equal and liberal message the document itself enshrines. The printing of this document itself marks a huge cultural shift in its nature, as in this period it was usually the Grande Editions that were printed, large books, not individual pamphlets.

    The use of language in the text is interesting, particular the references to wider groups and use of plural verbs. As we can see in the quotes above the document is very specific and often repetitive in it’s use of adjectives and the noun ‘Droit’.

    ‘ L’enseignement du droit naturel n’était pas dispensé dans nos facultés contrairement à ce qu’il en était dans l’Europe médiane. Nourris de droit romain par leurs études, lorsqu’ils étaient passes par l’Université, ce qui n’était pas obligatoire pour toutes les professions juridiques, et de pratique par leurs métiers….étaient souvent peu philosophes et ne devaient, pour la plupart, connaître les grands débats concernant le droit naturel….” La declaration des droits de l’homme et du citoyen, présentée par Stéphane Rials, Stephan Rials, 1988, Hachette, p.337
    This points out the nature of the text as politically didactic for an uneducated class

    “Between May and August 1789, the freedom of the press went from being an item on the agenda for reforming the aministration to becoming an inalienable and universal right of the citizen. Seeking to bolster its own legitimacy and determine the guiding principles for a new constitution, the National Assembly decided to issue a declaration of rights” Policing Public Opinion in the French Revolution, Charles Walton,2009, Oxford University Press
    Text as a political tool of security is the analysis of this quote

    “The proclamation of human rights during the French Revolution-from which most historians date the beginning of the modern era-has had a major impact on the form and content of the UDHR proclaimed 160 years later, and subsequently on the current codex of internationally recognized human rights. This impact is of more than mere rhetorical interest. Since the expansion of the international community of states and the decline of European hegemony (both economically and ideologically), it has become commonplace to challenge human rights as "Western" and "Eurocentric." A recurring debate surrounds the "universality" of human rights characterized by deeply entrenched sides taken by a few extreme cultural relativists and equally extreme universalist idealists, along with a majority of scholars holding many explicit and implicit intermediate positions.” From the “Single Confused Page” to the “Decalogue for Six Billion Persons”: The Rootes of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the French Revolution, Human Rights Quarterly, 8/1/1998, vol 20, issue 3, pp. 459-541
    This article cites the precedent and cultural shift this document makes, as well as discussing the universality of the original and whether this idea still applies that was established by the mass printing of the original.

  4. Texts that seek to challenge social/cultural mindsets

    Cité des Dames

    Challenges the social/cultural mindset of women being inferior to men and less capable in a number of fields.

    Passage 1: Livre I Chapitre XXVII Où Christine demande à Raison si Dieu a jamais permis à une intelligence féminine d’accéder aux sciences les plus nobles. Réponse de Raison

    This passage sees Christine challenge the conception that women are incapable of comprehending science. Argumentative process to prove that they are equal to men.
    Dialogue/interview form that is throughout the book: like a court case, arguments - persuasive
    Rhetorical structure personified
    Language is formal, arguments are reasoned, logical
    Christine’s plea: ‘Je souhaite vivement connaître la réponse’ - importance of what is at stake
    Use of contrast with men
    Leads into use of a list of examples to support case

    Passage 2: Livre II Chapitre XIII Où Christine demande à Droiture s’il est vrai, comme affirment les livres et les hommes, que ce sont les femmes qui par leur faute rendent l’état de mariage si difficile à supporter. Réponse de Droiture, qui commence à rappeler les femmes qui aimèrent leur mari d’un amour profond

    This passage shows the conversation about whether women are the cause of marital unhappiness
    The logical process of Droiture’s argument is really clear:
    Women mistreated by their husbands
    Husbands mistreated by wives? No examples
    Slander of women is invented
    Plenty of marriages are happy
    There are good husbands (example of Christine’s)
    There are cruel wives, but rare
    Refutes Théophraste, cites Hypsicratée as an example
    Language is emotive: ‘Ah! Chère Christine!’ Force of Droiture’s belief is evident
    Use of questions to turn it back on Christine and force her to see truth of argument

    Critical sources

    Nadia Margolis, ‘An Introduction to Christine de Pizan’ (University Press of Florida, 2011)
    p20 ‘Her experiences as a literate woman making her way in the real world in a man’s profession, together with her readings about women’s negative role in history in history, largely written by typically misogynistic clerkly authors, inspired Christine to defend women by rewriting their history in the City of Ladies (1404-5)’

    Bonnie A. Birk, ‘Christine de Pizan and Biblical Wisdom: A Feminist-Theological Point of View’ (Marquette University Press, 2005)
    p128 ‘Christine is reminded quite forcefully that the opinions of men are decidedly not articles of faith. She must reject these absurdities and give credence to her own judgment and good sense, and must consider too, that those who issue these lies are really hurting themselves, not the women whom they malign.’
    p138 ‘It is interesting to observe that, even as Christine launches page after page of argumentation against the seemingly endless stream of slanderous assertions against women, she takes care to interject at least a few comments that demonstrate her basic belief in the potential goodness and possibility of virtue in all people, whether men or women. With her underlying premise that women and men share a common humanity, she seems to make a fairly reasonable attempt not to polarise the categories of man and woman, or claim the inherent higher worth of women over against men, which would present a problematic inconsistency in this, her basic argument.’


  5. Henry, Matt, Charlotte

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