blcckwidows asked:

We got assigned to read a war or romance novel at school and I'd really like to read Les Misérables since I've already started reading it some time ago so I was wondering, do you think it fits either of those categories? And if so, which?

I don’t think it does, actually. It definitely has elements of both in its subplots (the Waterloo digression, for example, or the Marius/Cosette love story), but that’s because it’s not so much a novel as a monstrous kitchen-sink conglomeration of everything Victor Hugo thought was relevant to the social situation in Europe at the time. You could call it a sociopolitical novel or a novel about the nature of history or even a novel about religion, but you’d have to do some serious rhetorical contortions to call it a war or romance novel.

However! You might want to look into whether you can get your hands on a copy of Ninety-Three, which is 100% (okay, maybe 93%, given Hugo’s tendency to digress) about the civil war that took place in the provinces during the French Revolution. A lot of its themes are very similar to Les Mis—justice, compassion, the nature of an ideal society, the paradox of violent struggle towards a peaceful future, a focus on the dispossessed and the innocent casualties of ideological strife—but it plays out entirely in a wartime context. And Cimourdain, one of the central characters, is like a cross between everything that is great and awful about Javert with everything that is great and awful about Enjolras.

Also, it’s shorter than Les Mis. A lot shorter. Like, a thousand pages shorter. There’s still a weird-ass digression on the Breton peasantry to get through, and one of Hugo’s dizzying “let me throw a zillion random factoids and anecdotes at you!” slice-of-life descriptions for the state of Paris in 1793, but once you get to the main plot it cracks along with brutal efficiency. And it’s just the kind of terrifyingly compelling shit that makes for great reading and leaves you rolling in mountains of potential essay topics.

thissmilewasnotended:

A Les Misérables OFC (1980) curiosity: Act 3 (immediately following the interval) began with a prisoner of the June rebellion recalling that fateful event.
The text in the photo is from the abridged original French production programme that was included in the “Stage to Screen” book, which is sold at the Queen’s theatre. The scene descriptions (in black) roughly read as follows:
"On the 5th of June 1832, the people of Paris, mobilised by the funeral of General Lamarque, rebel."
[second paragraph of black text:] “In his cell, a prisoner remembers: Rue de la Chanvrerie, the friends of the ABC, resolved to fight for the principles of equality, have built a barricade. Gavroche is alongside them.”
The story of Javert’s capture and release, Éponine’s death in Marius’ arms, the dawn before the fall of the barricade and the shooting and death of Gavroche therefore seem to be told from the recollection of a witness. Maybe not, and until a video surfaces some day we might not know for certain. But if this is the case, well, maybe it explains why the deaths of Enjolras and the other Amis were never shown in this production (the prisoner could easily have been captured by that stage).
Apparently the prisoner was played by Claude Reva, who also played the roles of a worker, Fauchelevent, and a bourgeois.

thissmilewasnotended:

A Les Misérables OFC (1980) curiosity: Act 3 (immediately following the interval) began with a prisoner of the June rebellion recalling that fateful event.

The text in the photo is from the abridged original French production programme that was included in the “Stage to Screen” book, which is sold at the Queen’s theatre. The scene descriptions (in black) roughly read as follows:

"On the 5th of June 1832, the people of Paris, mobilised by the funeral of General Lamarque, rebel."

[second paragraph of black text:] “In his cell, a prisoner remembers: Rue de la Chanvrerie, the friends of the ABC, resolved to fight for the principles of equality, have built a barricade. Gavroche is alongside them.”

The story of Javert’s capture and release, Éponine’s death in Marius’ arms, the dawn before the fall of the barricade and the shooting and death of Gavroche therefore seem to be told from the recollection of a witness. Maybe not, and until a video surfaces some day we might not know for certain. But if this is the case, well, maybe it explains why the deaths of Enjolras and the other Amis were never shown in this production (the prisoner could easily have been captured by that stage).

Apparently the prisoner was played by Claude Reva, who also played the roles of a worker, Fauchelevent, and a bourgeois.

apollofastingdionysusdrunk asked:

How long does it take for you to learn French?

Well, subtracting the time when I wasn’t actively learning it… it took me about five years to hit reading fluency (and some sort of writing proficiency), and another year of immersion to be competent in spoken French. Plus a few months of intermittent workplace immersion to be comfortable with spoken French.

Breaking it down: about two years’ worth of basic French classes in middle school and high school, followed by a few years of screwing around doing other things. Then came the Hugo obsession, and within about three years of painstakingly translating 19th century political speeches and cavalierly plowing my way through French Romantic novels, my French was Good Enough to start putting together my study-abroad application for Paris.

(In those three years I did a fairly ineffectual month-long immersion program in Bordeaux and a semester of French-lit-with-training-wheels in college—Maupassant short stories with extensive vocab lists provided, advanced grammar review, the basics of essay-writing style. But the bulk of it was self-study, not formal instruction; I would never have placed into that lit class, let alone found it as easy as I did, if I hadn’t been approaching reading fluency already. College history and lit courses helped polish my French and improve my confidence with it, but tbh fandom obsession was responsible for most of the actual work.)

Anonymous asked:

Have you got any classic queer lit recommendations? (would prefer focusing on women, but watevs) I've read mlle de maupin and the girl with the golden eyes, loved them both, but I'm struggling to come up with more than that :(

pilferingapples:

tenlittlebullets:

Hmmm, let’s see! Focusing in on Romantic-era French lit here because that’s the closest thing I have to an area of expertise:

  • That Eugénie Danglars subplot in The Count of Monte Cristo is p. much Textual Lesbians All Over (and there are also some shenanigans with crossdressing bandits near the beginning), just make sure to pick up an unabridged edition because for mysterious unaccountable reasons it’s always one of the first things to be cut
  • I… haven’t actually read Balzac’s Cousin Bette (or its male counterpart, Cousin Pons), but I’ve been assured on good authority that both of them are pretty fuckin’ gay
  • George Sand wrote a play, Gabriel, about a girl raised as a boy. The first act is played straight (no pun intended) according to the grand theatrical traditions of “male protag meets female protag while she’s in drag, falls for her anyway, freaks out, and then all is revealed and they’re happily married off.” The second act is an Into the Woods-style deconstruction where Gabriel(le)… um… doesn’t adjust very well to the role of ‘wife,’ and things go downhill from there. IDK if it’s available in English translation anywhere. :(
  • Sand’s Lélia is kind of queer-adjacent—it is very much about the shit roles available for women, traditional marriage as a respectable form of prostitution, and the stunting of female desire in a culture where love is dominated by male violence and possession. The discussions of ‘frigidity’ are mostly relevant to asexuality, but it was also scandalous at the time for some minor but very suggestive scenes between two sisters.
  • I feel kind of crass putting Gamiani on this list, because it’s terribad Evil Lesbians porn that Alfred de Musset ‘anonymously’ wrote while he was on the outs with George Sand… but on the other hand the French Romantics writing RPF about each other will never not be entertaining.
  • Sylvia Townsend Warner’s Summer Will Show was written in the 1930s but set during the revolution of 1848, and stars an independent but rather staid Englishwoman who moves to Paris and proceeds to fall in love with her husband’s mistress, a Jewish revolutionary half-actress half-strumpet wild child.
  • Okay fine I know it has absolutely fuckall to do with the French Romantics, but if you haven’t read The Well of Loneliness yet you should totally do it

That’s all I’ve got off the top of my head for female-centric lit (besides a couple of poems in Les Fleurs du Mal, “Lesbos” and “The Damned Women”). For textual male gay, the gold star recommendation will always be Balzac’s Vautrin trilogy, Old Goriot, Lost Illusions, and A Harlot High and Low—featuring the most magnificent bastard of them all, who has a taste for Faustian bargains with pretty young men. For not-all-that-subtextual male gay in prison, check out Hugo’s Claude Gueux.

If you want androgyny and genderfuck the offerings are a little more obscure—there’s the aforementioned Gabriel, Balzac’s short stories Sarrasine (about a painter who falls for a castrato who’s living as a woman) and Séraphîta (which I have not read, but is apparently weird and philosophical in its approach to androgyny), and a poorly written but historically interesting novel by Henri de Latouche called Fragoletta, whose title character is intersex. The Balzac ones miiiight be available in English somewhere; Fragoletta isn’t easy to find even in French.

Also, if you’re interested in alienation-from-society angst and repression so thick it has to erase the actual subject of its anxiety and make it into a cipher, hoo boy have I got some stories to tell you about the 1820s Romantics. Nobody in these books is actually gay, but… well. The whole thing got set off when the Marquis de Custine broke off a promising engagement for reasons that looked completely inexplicable at the time. (Spoilers: he was flamingly gay. He wasn’t publicly outed until some years later, but man, he was gay as a sunny June morning.)

Read More

And… that’s about it, I think! Unless you want me to start rattling on again about how the generation shift between pre-1830 and post-1830 Romantics maps almost exactly onto the shift away from Secrets So Unspeakable They Don’t Even Exist and heroes suffering through their perpetual alienation from society, and towards open flamboyant depictions of queerness as a way to talk about social disruption.

Yes hello I would very much appreciate your talking more about this! Please?

Oh god I… on the one hand the bit you quoted just about sums it up and IDEK what else I can say. On the other hand if I start talking about the fiddly details of it I will never stop.

So to start with: it maps perfectly. It almost strains suspension of disbelief. Every single work mentioned outside the read-more was published post-Hernani. Every single Unspeakable Secret novel under the read-more is from the 1820s. There are exactly three weird edge cases on the Repression-Flamboyance Scale, and if you line all the works up chronologically those three come in a lump. Aloys (1829) is the last one from the ’20s, and it’s an Unspeakable Secret novel where the secret does actually get told (albeit displaced onto weird first-generation-Romantics incestuous drama), by an author whose own secret got yanked into the open when he was outed as gay. Fragoletta (1830) is… not entirely unlike the pretentious fanfiction writing style that tries to be deep by never fucking telling you what’s going on, so I can’t speak to how coy it’s trying to be, but it is a screamingly, unsubtly transitional novel, set in 1799 on the cusp between the Directory and the Empire, with a title character who appears first as a woman and then as a man, and who ends up vengeful, unstable, and ultimately doomed because s/he will never be fully accepted in either role. And then there’s Lélia (1833), which is explicitly about impossibility and absence in the context of sexual desire, but not as a result of some internal disconnect between the protagonist and the rest of the world at large—the dysfunction is laid squarely at the feet of a society that is broken in specific ways and will continue to break women and relationships unless shaken up to its core.

Claire de Duras used the metaphor of a wall of glass or crystal separating two lovers, and that’s… the Restoration-era repression thing in a nutshell? The invisible, impenetrable wall between you and what you want; being alone even when you’re with others and not even being able to see (or look at) what’s coming between you; the quiet, desperate, isolated unhappiness of being unable to find a place for yourself in the world. Mal du siècle. It’s very queer, really, especially when brought to bear on romantic and sexual disconnects, but in a way that focuses on outsider-ness, on inability to find fulfilment while going through the motions of ‘normal’ relationships, and reduces the deviance itself to a transparent, invisible cipher.

Which all gets blown wide open post-1830.

1830 is when the Romantics—corresponding to the broader social changes that toppled the Restoration—decide, screw being the voiceless, disenfranchised, dispossessed generation, we’re gonna take the art world by storm and carve out a place for ourselves. It’s like a switch gets flipped—instead of the endlessly-repeating angst over one’s Inability To Normal you get actual depictions of abnormality and its relationship to society in all sorts of variations. And this at a time when the status quo—particularly gender roles and family/relationship structures—was in flux, just settling in to the middle-class values that would dominate the rest of the century, and that were fucked-up and exclusionary in relatively new ways.

So in the July Monarchy, particularly towards the beginning, you get this huge flowering of nonstandard sexuality and gender as a fictional tool to actively engage with societal disruption. In a bunch of different ways—it doesn’t just mean one thing. Sexual or gender-role dysfunction as a symptom of the fucked-up treatment of women with Sand, a quasi-incestuous bisexual seduction/murder plot as symbol of a society that’s eating itself alive with its need for consumption in Girl With The Golden Eyes, bisexuality and androgyny as symbols of aesthetic purity set apart from society in Mlle de Maupin, deep yet unsanctioned relationships as victims of social brutality in Claude Gueux (and… a lot of Hugo really), outsiders to the family structure as both predators (Cousin Bette) and victims (Cousin Pons) of those within it, and… Vautrin. The relationship between Vautrin’s homosexuality and his function as social commentary could probably fill a fucking novel, but he’s a Magnificent Bastard who beats society at its own game by playing more honestly and ruthlessly than it ever could under its infinite layers of hypocrisy. And this is a society where women are the ultimate disenfranchised parties—victimized, subjugated, used as objects of pleasure and status, shut out from any official kind of power, and acquiring it anyway through illicit back-channels of influence with all the pressures of a sick society and no measures for accountability or responsibility. So on the one hand, Vautrin’s contempt for women is incredibly unpleasant as a reflection of a wider social problem. On the other hand… well, the honesty is refreshing, at least.

…AND THEN THERE’S THE CLASS ISSUES gosh just look at all those ‘de’s among the 1820s author names. Uh. No comment on how much of the “wall of crystal” stuff was the direct result of a society (and artistic establishment) controlled by an ossified, geriatric aristocracy.

Anonymous asked:

Have you got any classic queer lit recommendations? (would prefer focusing on women, but watevs) I've read mlle de maupin and the girl with the golden eyes, loved them both, but I'm struggling to come up with more than that :(

Hmmm, let’s see! Focusing in on Romantic-era French lit here because that’s the closest thing I have to an area of expertise:

  • That Eugénie Danglars subplot in The Count of Monte Cristo is p. much Textual Lesbians All Over (and there are also some shenanigans with crossdressing bandits near the beginning), just make sure to pick up an unabridged edition because for mysterious unaccountable reasons it’s always one of the first things to be cut
  • I… haven’t actually read Balzac’s Cousin Bette (or its male counterpart, Cousin Pons), but I’ve been assured on good authority that both of them are pretty fuckin’ gay
  • George Sand wrote a play, Gabriel, about a girl raised as a boy. The first act is played straight (no pun intended) according to the grand theatrical traditions of “male protag meets female protag while she’s in drag, falls for her anyway, freaks out, and then all is revealed and they’re happily married off.” The second act is an Into the Woods-style deconstruction where Gabriel(le)… um… doesn’t adjust very well to the role of ‘wife,’ and things go downhill from there. IDK if it’s available in English translation anywhere. :(
  • Sand’s Lélia is kind of queer-adjacent—it is very much about the shit roles available for women, traditional marriage as a respectable form of prostitution, and the stunting of female desire in a culture where love is dominated by male violence and possession. The discussions of ‘frigidity’ are mostly relevant to asexuality, but it was also scandalous at the time for some minor but very suggestive scenes between two sisters.
  • I feel kind of crass putting Gamiani on this list, because it’s terribad Evil Lesbians porn that Alfred de Musset ‘anonymously’ wrote while he was on the outs with George Sand… but on the other hand the French Romantics writing RPF about each other will never not be entertaining.
  • Sylvia Townsend Warner’s Summer Will Show was written in the 1930s but set during the revolution of 1848, and stars an independent but rather staid Englishwoman who moves to Paris and proceeds to fall in love with her husband’s mistress, a Jewish revolutionary half-actress half-strumpet wild child.
  • Okay fine I know it has absolutely fuckall to do with the French Romantics, but if you haven’t read The Well of Loneliness yet you should totally do it

That’s all I’ve got off the top of my head for female-centric lit (besides a couple of poems in Les Fleurs du Mal, “Lesbos” and “The Damned Women”). For textual male gay, the gold star recommendation will always be Balzac’s Vautrin trilogy, Old Goriot, Lost Illusions, and A Harlot High and Low—featuring the most magnificent bastard of them all, who has a taste for Faustian bargains with pretty young men. For not-all-that-subtextual male gay in prison, check out Hugo’s Claude Gueux.

If you want androgyny and genderfuck the offerings are a little more obscure—there’s the aforementioned Gabriel, Balzac’s short stories Sarrasine (about a painter who falls for a castrato who’s living as a woman) and Séraphîta (which I have not read, but is apparently weird and philosophical in its approach to androgyny), and a poorly written but historically interesting novel by Henri de Latouche called Fragoletta, whose title character is intersex. The Balzac ones miiiight be available in English somewhere; Fragoletta isn’t easy to find even in French.

Also, if you’re interested in alienation-from-society angst and repression so thick it has to erase the actual subject of its anxiety and make it into a cipher, hoo boy have I got some stories to tell you about the 1820s Romantics. Nobody in these books is actually gay, but… well. The whole thing got set off when the Marquis de Custine broke off a promising engagement for reasons that looked completely inexplicable at the time. (Spoilers: he was flamingly gay. He wasn’t publicly outed until some years later, but man, he was gay as a sunny June morning.)

[[MORE]]

Then his fiancée’s mother, the Duchesse de Duras, who was actually a good friend of his, wrote a novella called Olivier or The Secret, about an ideal love affair made impossible by some ghastly intrinsic secret the male protagonist is carrying around with him. Said secret is so unspeakable it’s never revealed in the text except by process of elimination. (IIRC audience speculation narrowed it down to ‘impotent,’ ‘secretly her brother,’ or ‘secretly a woman,’ but the more salient point is that the secret is so unspeakable it doesn’t actually exist.) Anyway, she never published it, just read it aloud to her salon… and that opened up a small cottage industry in knockoff Oliviers based mostly on hearsay and lewd speculation. Latouche might’ve done the first one as a practical joke and later developed it into Fragoletta, but even Stendhal got in on the action, though he was polite enough to develop his “ideal lovers thwarted by the man’s unspeakable secret which makes consummation impossible” plot into a Proper Stendhalian Novel and title it Armance. He’s on record in his correspondence cheekily claiming it was impotence all along, and that Octave bluffed his way through his wedding night via the woeful state of female sex ed and clever use of his fingers and tongue.

Academics are also fond of the impotence explanation, not just because it was indeed a taboo subject, but because it’s a nice thematic match for all the Absence and Impossibility stuff and because thwarted attempts at fulfilment and human connection were a huge part of the 1820s zeitgeist. (See: Benjamin Constant’s Adolphe, which was a forerunner of the whole Olivier family and also reads as subtly queer-adjacent.) But the whole thing traces itself back to Custine, who was violently and humiliatingly outed several years after this all went down and lost most of his social circle. And later he went on to write a “mysteriously broken engagement” novel of his own, called Aloys or the Monk of Mont-Saint-Bernard, which is incredibly fucked-up and Freudian and states its secret outright: the hero is deeply in love… with his fiancée’s mother. (For those keeping track, yes, that’s the fictional avatar for the Duchesse de Duras, who wrote the original Oliver novel trying to figure him out. It only gets more incestuous from there—she had a complicated thing with Chateaubriand, who was banging Custine’s mother and may secretly have been his real father, and she was also working on a novella with a similar title.) This is the point where I throw my hands up and go “I don’t even. Draw your own conclusions.”

Anyway. Armance and Adolphe are widely considered classics and have English translations. The manuscript of Olivier was eventually found and it was published in French, though AFAIK never translated. Aloys is so obscure even in French that I had to get it on ILL from one of the big Ivy League libraries when I was writing a paper on this shit. And I don’t even know if there are any extant copies of any of the scabrous Olivier parodies.

And… that’s about it, I think! Unless you want me to start rattling on again about how the generation shift between pre-1830 and post-1830 Romantics maps almost exactly onto the shift away from Secrets So Unspeakable They Don’t Even Exist and heroes suffering through their perpetual alienation from society, and towards open flamboyant depictions of queerness as a way to talk about social disruption.

englishxvixen asked:

Thank you thank you thank you THANK YOU. I was losing all hope in finding any information on it. I have to go scrounge through my school library and attempt to find anything on the rebellion in at least an encyclopedia because they don't have a single book on it in any of the schools in my district so thank you for giving me the start :3

You’re welcome! As far as I know, the only books entirely devoted to the June 1832 uprising are in French (Bouchet’s Le Roi et les barricades, Sayre & Löwy’s L’insurrection des Misérables, Jeanne’s letter and Bouchet’s commentary in À cinq heures nous serons tous morts). But if you can get Jill Harsin’s Barricades or Mark Traugott’s The Insurgent Barricade through inter-library loan, both of them have sections that deal with June 1832 in detail. You might also want to see if you can find Louis Blanc’s History of Ten Years.

englishxvixen:

Does anyone know of any reliable sources where i can learn about the June Rebellion? We’re not allowed to use wikipedia and i can’t find a good website anywhere D:

I have a bunch of primary source accounts of June 1832 (several of them in English) on my website, chanvrerie.net, as well as an excerpt from Jill Harsin’s Barricades about that particular uprising and a further-reading list with other web and print sources. You might also want to trawl my June Rebellion tag—even if you can’t cite the blog itself it might turn up some useful links.

somuchbetterthanthat replied to your post: Aaaaand the cycle of Les Mis fandom w…

Can I ask what happened? Because I must be following the right blogs and i’ve seen no wanks at all in les mis fandom those days?

I missed most of it and this is me showing up fifteen minutes late with Starbucks, but AFAIK the highlights version is “voksen packs up shop and quits the fandom after an extended campaign of badmouthing and harassment from anons on sadfrenchpeople, literally everyone else in the fandom goes ‘what the actual fuck why would you people do that,’ SFP implodes amidst general disgust and rises from the ashes as a new anon meme with heavier modding and a ban on ad-hominem wank.”