Singing the French Revolution: Popular Culture and Politics, 1787-1799

Overview

Laura Mason examines the shifting fortunes of singing as a political gesture to highlight the importance of popular culture to revolutionary politics. Arguing that scholars have overstated the uniformity of revolutionary political culture, Mason uses songwriting and singing practices to reveal its diverse nature. Song performances in the streets, theaters, and clubs of Paris showed how popular culture was invested with new political meaning after 1789, becoming one of the most important means for engaging in ...
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Overview

Laura Mason examines the shifting fortunes of singing as a political gesture to highlight the importance of popular culture to revolutionary politics. Arguing that scholars have overstated the uniformity of revolutionary political culture, Mason uses songwriting and singing practices to reveal its diverse nature. Song performances in the streets, theaters, and clubs of Paris showed how popular culture was invested with new political meaning after 1789, becoming one of the most important means for engaging in revolutionary debate.Throughout the 1790s, French citizens came to recognize the importance of anthems for promoting their interpretations of revolutionary events, and for championing their aspirations for the Revolution. By opening new arenas of cultural activity and demolishing Old Regime aesthetic hierarchies, revolutionaries permitted a larger and infinitely more diverse population to participate in cultural production and exchange, Mason contends. The resulting activism helps explain the urgency with which successive governments sought to impose an official political culture on a heterogeneous and mobilized population. After 1793, song culture was gradually depoliticized as popular classes retreated from public arenas, middle brow culture turned to the strictly entertaining, and official culture became increasingly rigid. At the same time, however, singing practices were invented which formed the foundation for new, activist singing practices in the next century. The legacy of the Revolution, according to Mason, was to bestow new respectability on popular singing, reshaping it from an essentially conservative means of complaint to an instrument of social and political resistance.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The author's research is impressive. . . . Mason's subject is important, her argument is effectively presented, and the story is interesting."—Robert M. Isherwood, Journal of Modern History
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801432330
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 11/7/1996
  • Pages: 280
  • Lexile: 1550L (what's this?)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction: Revolutionary Scholarship and Popular Culture 1
Ch. 1 Songs under the Old Regime 15
Ch. 2 Songs in the Street (1787 - July 1792) 34
Ch. 3 Songs off the Street: Newspapers, Theaters, and Satire (1789 - September 1793) 61
Interlude: From Chant de Guerre to La Marseillaise 93
Ch. 4 The Revolutionary Song (April 1792 - Pluviose Year III) 104
Ch. 5 The Reactionary Song (Brumaire Year III - Ventose Year IV) 130
Ch. 6 The Song in Retreat (Messidor Year III - Brumaire Year VIII) 157
Ch. 7 Songs Silenced and Changed (from Ventose Year IV into the Nineteenth Century) 184
Conclusion: The Impact and Legacy of Revolutionary Culture 209
Notes 221
Bibliography 251
Index 263
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