The Culture of War

BookThe Culture of War

The Culture of War

Literature of the Siege of Paris 1870-1871

Studies in Modern and Contemporary France, 6


October 20th, 2020

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The Culture of War explores the unexpected flourishing of literature both high and low during the Siege of Paris at the end of the Franco-Prussian War, 1870-1871. When Prussian forces completely blockaded Paris, isolating the city from the outside world, Parisians turned to literature to resist the enemy, to fill the idle hours under siege, and to articulate their place in history. This cultural boom was a conscious effort on the part of literary institutions like newspapers, publishers, and theaters to ensure the viability of their industries during a period of political uncertainty. To do so, many publishers, editors, and directors sought legitimacy through populism, promoting literature written by anonymous and unknown authors or that spoke to populist ideas. A study of national tragedy on a local scale, The Culture of War goes beyond traditional narratives of communal or individual psychology, and studies institutional responses to financial and political instability, viewing literature as a product of economic and political forces.

  • The first book on the literature of the Siege of Paris
  • A study of the troubled period before the revolutionary Commune of Paris
  • With chapters on theater, newspapers, publishers, and personal writing
  • Analysis of archival sources alongside literary texts
  • A broad narrative of the long winter of 1870-1871

"This book offers an original and intriguing look into the literature of the four-month period of the Siege (introducing some virtually unknown works to readers) as well as a novel exploration of the ways that literary institutions responded to this moment of turmoil.”
Anne O'Neil-Henry, Georgetown University

'Because the book shows the power of a patriotism which reactivates references to the French Revolution, to the people in arms, the work, although written by a specialist in literature, is also extremely careful to get out of textual analysis stricto sensu to question literature as a social activity, [...] gives new life to printers, publishers, owners of newspapers and theatres, who are the actors of this moment of exceptional creativity. [...] All in all, this stimulating book reinforces the value of a multidisciplinary approach to writing in times of war.'Odile Roynette, Contemporary Territories

Author Information

Colin Foss is an Assistant Professor of French at Austin College (Texas, USA).

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Part I: On Stage31
1. The Boulevards Lose their Theaters33
2. Hugomania59
Part II: Off Presses77
3. The Feuilleton at War79
4. The Dubious Battle of Reichshoffen105
Part III: At Home125
5. Letters to No One127
6. Historians of the Present147
Part IV: In Print171
7. De-Modernizing Publishing173
8. To Make the Past Public197
Coda: The Siege and State Violence215