The Body Politic: Corporeal Metaphor in Revolutionary France

TitleThe Body Politic: Corporeal Metaphor in Revolutionary France
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication1997
Authorsde Baecque, Antoine
Number of Pages371
PublisherStanford University Press

This is a history of the French Revolution told through the study of images of the body as they appeared in the popular literature of the time, showing how these images were at the very center of the metaphoric language used to describe the revolution in progress. The author draws upon some 2,000 texts, pamphlets, announcements, opinions, accounts, treatises, and journals to exhume the textual reality of the Revolution, the body of its history. The deployment of bodily images--the degeneracy of the nobility, the impotence of the king, the herculean strength of the citizenry, the goddess of politics appearing naked like Truth, the bleeding wounds of the Republican martyrs--allowed political society to represent itself at a pivotal moment in its history. Searching for "the body of history," the author finds three forms of political representation: first, the metaphysical representation of the body as an anthropomorphic symbol of the political system--the transition of sovereignty from the body of the king to the great citizen body; second, the metaphorical representation of the body as a tool of discourse for persuasion--the embodied tale of the revolutionary epic; and third, the representation of the body in public ceremonies--street carnivals and funerals.

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