Le Corps au combat: the body as a site of symbolic combat in republican newspaper satire in the late Second Empire and early Third Republic, c. 1867-1873

Martin, Aidan (2021) Le Corps au combat: the body as a site of symbolic combat in republican newspaper satire in the late Second Empire and early Third Republic, c. 1867-1873. MPhil(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis seeks to demonstrate the importance of the body in the contestation of symbolic authority by republican newspaper satirists during a period of great political change in France, encompassing the end of the Second Empire and the beginning of the Third Republic. In recent years, much attention has been given to caricature in the period, but historians have largely restricted their consideration to broad surveys of collections. This thesis instead opts for a close reading of individual caricatures and other satire in an effort to decode their symbolic meaning, identifying and contextualising sources that can enlighten us about the reformulation of authority in the period and assisting further research in the area. As concerns methodology, the study bases its understanding of the body on the frameworks set out by Judith Wechsler and Bertrand Tillier, that the body functioned as a set of codes to be read, revealing information about one’s character and serving as signs of social difference. Corporeality is therefore not only considered in its physical terms (physique, gesture and dress), but also as a social and political phenomenon, encompassing ideas of morality, gender and class. As explored in each chapter, this has wide-ranging consequences for satire’s ability to interrupt the transmission of symbolic authority, which, inspired by Seth Whidden, the thesis defines as the conventions of signs and symbols which allow one agent to act upon another. The manipulation of the body as sign, particularly but not solely in caricature, is the cornerstone of the satirist’s involvement in the contest of symbolic authority. As the thesis attests, symbolic conventions are constituted through discursive practice, with the theoretical approaches of Richard Terdiman shaping the thesis’ understanding of such practices. The study of the body and symbolic authority thus necessarily collides with issues of discourse and counter-discourse. The thesis contends that this intersection of corporeality, discourse and symbolic authority is a good framework in which to examine textual and visual satire in late-nineteenth-century France, appreciating the role that individual satirists played in the symbolic struggles of the era while recognising the collective, societal and discursive formations integral to their success and which defined their limitations. This is particularly important given the prevailing context of censorship in the period. This nuanced approach allows for censorship to be perceived as more than a mere roadblock to satirical intervention against Bonapartism and monarchism, but as a source of artistic and ideological innovation which provided a fertile field for the negotiation of symbolic authority between satirists, their readers and their subjects.

Item Type: Thesis (MPhil(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Modern Languages and Cultures > French
Supervisor's Name: Kerr, Dr. Greg and Clarke, Dr. Jackie
Date of Award: 2021
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2021-82787
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 05 Apr 2022 15:46
Last Modified: 08 Apr 2022 16:38
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.82787
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/82787

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