Book 68: Joan of Arc in French Art and Culture (1700-1855): From Satire to Sanctity

TITLE: Joan of Arc in French Art and Culture (1700-1855): From Satire to Sanctity
AUTHOR: Nora Heimann
STARTED: August 21, 2006
FINISHED: August 31, 2006
PAGES: 215

FIRST SENTENCE: [From the Introduction] Joan of Arc's spectacular, triumphal, and tragic life story has more of the leements of heroic legend than of veritable history.

SUMMARY: [From] In her meticulous and wide-ranging study, Nora M. Heimann follows the metamorphosis of Joan of Arc's posthumous representation during the years in which her image ascended from relative obscurity as a minor provincial figure in the middle ages through her treatment as a figure of political satire in the eighteenth century to her ultimate emergence as an image of piety and sanctity in the mid-nineteenth century. Offering the first scholarly art historical and cultural analysis of the origins of the modern Joan of Arc cult, she takes on the challenge of chatting, as no previous critic has, why and how the Maid of Orleans has been all things to such a diverse public through the ages, particularly during the rapid shifts in political regimes that came in the wake of the French Revolution.

REASON FOR READING: I went to Paris was Nora during my first college spring break. Her passion and knowledge piqued my interest, and when I heard she had a book out, I had to read it.

THOUGHTS: Overall, I was not disappointed in Nora's work. Her book is well-written, with in-depth research. The approach she took, chronicling how Joan was first portrayed as a comedy of errors to a saintly heroine, was well thought out and presented. When it comes to non-fiction, I always fear the the material and writing will put me to sleep. While some areas of Nora's work were incredibly academic (mainly the footnotes which I found myself constantly reading), the book, as a whole, we evenly paced, which made the reading easy.

Nora moves chronilogically through history, which made it very easy to discern her main point: that Joan of Arc's story and image has been manipulated by history to suit the leaders of the current era. In her book, Nora lays out her argument in a structured, but not templated, way. She balances the history of the era with the actual object of study. In this way, she shows how the two worked together to create Joan of Arc's image. Her findings are easy to comprehend and well thought out. Nora backs up her reading of the images and literature with in-depth research and logic. It is very easy to see why she is considered a leader in the area of Joan of Arc studies.

My main complaint, actually, has to do with the title and layout. I hate it when books have titles for subtitles and subtitles. While this really bears no reflection on the actual material of the book, it does annoy me. Secondly, I disliked like how all the art was group in the middle of the book as plates. Nora constantly refers to this works and, in order to appreciate fully Nora's explanation, one has to constantly flip do the apporporiate plate. I found this to be incredibly jarring and it took me right of the book in many cases. Again, this has nothing to do with the substance of the book, but it does affect the overall reading experience.

MISCELLANEOUS: But what would she say about modern film?

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): Back to the library
RATING: 7/10 [Very Good]

CR: Hornblower and the Atropos by C.M. Forester
RN: I have not thought that far ahead.


Anonymous said…
Sounds like a decent book. It is interesting how different authors have depicted the story of Joan of Arc. Try reading some yourself. There is a good list at the page below with some online for free:

Read more about Joan of Arc