The Interrogation of Joan of Arc

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A radical reassessment of the trial of Joan of Arc that gives a new sense of Joan in her time.

The transcripts of Joan of Arc's trial for heresy at Rouen in 1431 and the minutes of her interrogation have long been recognized as our best source of information about the Maid of Orleans. Historians generally view these legal texts as a precise account of Joan's words and, by extension, her beliefs. Focusing on the minutes recorded by clerics, however, Karen Sullivan challenges the accuracy of the transcript. In The Interrogation of Joan of Arc, she re-reads the record not as a perfect reflection of a historical personality's words, but as a literary text resulting from the collaboration between Joan and her interrogators.

Sullivan provides an illuminating and innovative account of Joan's trial and interrogation, placing them in historical, social, and religious context. In the fifteenth century, interrogation was a method of truth-gathering identified not with people like Joan, who was uneducated, but with clerics, like those who tried her. When these clerics questioned Joan, they did so as scholastics educated at the University of Paris, as judges and assistants to judges, and as pastors trained in hearing confessions.

The Interrogation of Joan of Arc traces Joan's conflicts with her interrogators not to differing political allegiances, but to fundamental differences between clerical and lay cultures. Sullivan demonstrates that the figure depicted in the transcripts as Joan of Arc is a complex, multifaceted persona that results largely from these cultural differences. Discerning and innovative, this study suggests a powerful new interpretive model and redefines our sense of Joan and her time.

Karen Sullivan is associate professor of literature at Bard College.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780816632688
  • Publisher: University of Minnesota Press
  • Publication date: 11/28/1999
  • Series: Medieval Cultures Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 1,159,864
  • Product dimensions: 5.88 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Karen Sullivan is professor of literature at Bard College. She is the author of The Interrogation of Joan of Arc, and Truth and the Heretic: Crises of Knowledge in Medieval French Literature, winner of the Scaglione Prize for French and Francophone Studies of the Modern Language Association, and published by the University of Chicago Press.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Introduction xi
1. The Fairy Tree 1
2. The Voices from God 21
3. The Departure for France 42
4. The Sign for the King 61
5. The Inquiry at Rouen 82
6. The Confession of Conscience 106
7. The Prison Cell 129
Notes 149
Selected Bibliography 179
Index 199
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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2002

    Sullivan's 'Interrogation'

    This book is based on two main themes: 1) the idea that Joan's trial allegedly revolved around differences between laypersons versus clergy rather than Armagnacs versus Anglo-Burgundians; and 2) the notion that Joan used language 'miniaturizing' her Voices and allegedly rejected them. The first point ignores the fact that there are English documents throughout late 1430 and early 1431, dated Sept. 3rd and 14th, Oct. 24th, Dec. 6th; Jan. 31st, March 1st, April 2nd, 9th, 14th, 21st (etc) detailing payments given by English officials to Joan's judges and covering similar expenses; and we know that the chief judge, Pierre Cauchon, had long been a salaried official of the English occupation government who served for a time as Chancellor for the Queen of England. The other members of the tribunal are also known to have been partisans of the same faction: the reason why the University of Paris changed so dramatically (as the author herself notes) after Paris came under Anglo-Burgundian occupation is the simple fact that all the pro-Armagnac members had to leave, with the result that the University was thoroughly Anglo-Burgundian by the time of Joan's trial, and therefore rabidly opposed to her because she was defeating their faction's armies. All of the above (and similar evidence in other documents) corroborates the testimony in the Rehabilitation transcripts, which has prompted historians to accept the latter as the more credible of the two trials. This book, on the other hand, tries to dismiss the prevailing view by accepting at face value the very Condemnation transcript which is proved unreliable by so many other documents. This brings me to the second main point that the author tries to make, concerning Joan's view of her Voices. The book's version of this issue is based on a handful of phrases in the alleged confession mentioned at the end of the transcript, a section which is dated June 7 - a full eight days after Joan's execution. If you look at the original manuscripts you'll see that this section was never signed by any of the purported witnesses nor by the notaries, a fact which the notaries themselves later explained when they testified that the 'confession' had never been witnessed by them and in fact did not appear until after she was already dead. But the author of this book accepts it at face value, then engages in a bit of word play in relation to a few phrases in which Joan is made to say that her Voices appeared to her in 'great number and small size'. This is interpreted as an attempt to 'miniaturize' her Voices and thereby 'objectify' and in essence reject them, an interpretation which would be dubious even if these quotes were authentic. But the quotes are not authentic, nor would there be any reason to believe that the phrase 'small size' reflects 'feelings' at all. This is the problem with Sullivan's methods throughout the book, and the problem with such analysis in general.

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