Printer Friendly

Victor Hugo's Paris: reviving palingenesis.

After reading Victor Hugo's Contemplations, Jules Michelet wrote to the exiled poet. The historian criticized the text's apparent attachment to Christianity. In an epistolary response to the Michelet, Hugo refutes this claim. He declares that his true ambition is to detach Christ from institutional and ornamental distractions: "Je ne puis oublier que Jesus a ete une incarnation saignante du progres; je le retire au pretre; je detache le martyre du crucifix et je decloue le Christ du christianisme." (1) Once rid of preacher, crucifix, and dogma, the tortured figure of Christ represents pure progress. Though, for Hugo, the Christ narrative was not the only story of progress to feature immaculate conception, crucifixion, and resurrection. In the commissioned introduction to Paris-Guide, the city guide for the 1867 Universal Exhibition, Hugo offers an elegiac portrait of Christ's modern successor: Paris. (2)

The rarely studied Paris stands midway between differing views of a supreme Paris in the voluminous Les Miserables (1862) and Quatrevingttreize (1874). (3) In Les Miserabies, Hugo writes that Paris is "un total ... Qui voit Paris croit voir le dessous de toute l'histoire" (I: 748). Besides offering a lens through which to view the entirety of history, the capital produced both liberty and progress: "II est superbe; il a un prodigieux 14 juillet qui delivre le globe; il fait faire le serment du Jeu de Paume a toutes les nations; sa nuit du 4 aout dissout en trois heures mille ans de feodalite; il fait de sa logique le muscle de la volonte" (I: 752). Creating and guaranteeing revolutionary rights in France and aboard, the city becomes "le heros de tous les peuples" (I; 753) Whilst containing all of the past and instigating a grand revolution, Paris also promises a progressive future. Investing the capital with divine qualities, Hugo writes that the revelation of Paris spreadsbecause of its language, a language that becomes "le Verbe; il constant dans tous les esprits 1'idee du progres" (I: 752).

Where logic and language are the means of spreading the Word of Paris in Les Miserables, Parisian progress becomes militant twelve years later in Hugo's final work of prose, Quatrevingt-treize (1874). Written in the years following the end of the Franco-Prussian war and the Paris Commune, this historical novel offers a view of the city during the Convention. In spite of the date in question, the Paris of 1793 takes on shades of the Paris of the Commune. This overlap brings into view Hugo's meditation upon the perpetuation of domestic turmoil. While still a source of progress, the Paris of Quatrevingt-treize is far more muscular and violent. It is the gleam of the guillotine, not the language of Parisians, which extends light and progress beyond Paris. Hugo speaks of piercing the dark and primitive Vendee with "les fleches de la lumiere" (288-289). Only by puncturing the "ombre bretonne" could the Paris of the Convention hope to unify the new nation under the banner of universal revolutionary progress: "Les catastrophes ont une sombre facon d'arranger les choses" (288-289). Hugo does not seek to conceal the violence that the pursuit of unity demanded. He apologetically explains that "[u]n chirurgien ressemble a un boucher; un guerisseur peut faire 1'effet d'un bourreau. La revolution se devoue a son oeuvre fatale. Elle mutile, mais elle sauve" (332-333). In the wake of the Commune, Paris's light becomes surgical and unyielding when facing dissident voices. Hugo, who quickly returned to his exile home on Guernsey after only the briefest return to Paris in the early 1870s, appears to be fully aware that a universal Paris implicated violence.

Published in between Les Miserables and Quatrevingt-treize, Paris demonstrates Hugo's continued devotion to writing about the beloved city from which he was exiled. It also suggests that Hugo remained an authoritative voice of the city. More importantly, this overlooked text signals a transitional moment in Hugo's late-career descriptions of Paris. This text supplies a vision of the capital that bridges the indirectly expansive Paris of Les Miserables and the assertively expansive Paris of Quatrevingt-treize. Jean Massin pushes this appreciation further by stating that Paris is "la vraie preface" to Quatrevingt-treize (572). Similar to Massin's point, Franck Laurent writes that for the Hugo penning Paris, this capital stood as the "lieu appartenant en propre a tous les peuples et non aux seuls Frangais, et qui oeuvre en fait a la disparition de la nation, trop etroite, trop relative, trop egoiste" (262). Paris's internationalism is indeed the ideal at the center of Paris.

Before Hugo details any strategy for generalizing revolutionary Parisian values, he constructs a historico-scientific narrative of Paris that seeks to legitimize the capital's international moral priority. Central to this task is explaining Paris as the original source of humanity's unity. One can see this impulse toward discovering the origin of Paris, and by extension liberty, as Hugo's response to epistemological challenges to mid- to late-nineteenth century thought. In La Question de I'origine, Paule Petitier argues that this "revolution epistemologique" can be attributed to the accelerated scientific engagement with the problem of locating origins (3-4). Models for rethinking time, historical change, and origins emerged from the onslaught of scientific publications ranging from .Jean-Baplisle Lamarck's Histoire naturelle des animaux sans vertebres (1815) and Georges Cuvier's Le Regne animal (1817) to Charles Lyell's Principles of Geology (1830-1833) and Darwin's On the Origin of Species (1859). Scientific advances encouraged the possibility of knowing origins from the inside out (3-7). But, this impulse toward origins also encouraged the manipulation of them. Petitier notes that this impulse cannot be separated from other concurrent ideological shifts: "Action en retour de la fin sur le commencement qu'on devait remarquer a l'epoque ou les secousses historiques entrainaient une reconstruction continuelle des origines" (7). Hugo's Paris exemplifies this sort of reworking of humanity's origins.

Where shifting explanations for biological and social changes may have spurred questions into the issue of origins, Hugo's Paris rescinds the desacralization of historical processes that these explanations entailed. In his discussion of the origins and development of the city, Hugo opts to tell the history of Paris through the language of Pierre-Simon Ballanche's social palingenesis and the Christ story. Drawing upon these two eschatologieal narratives, Hugo suggests that the globalization of a supreme Paris is both a scientific surety and a predestined end. (4)

In the Christian tradition, palingenesis, from the Greek palingenesis, to be born again, describes a process of renewal. The New Testament's two references to palingenesia, translated as "regeneration," invoke rebirth as part of a divine plan where a cleansed man reunites with Christ. (5) In his article "Palingenesie Philosophique to Palingenesie Sociale," scholar Arthur McCalla explains that notions of humanity return to a pre-Fall state of perfection and unity marked eighteenth-century French biological studies. The palingenetic model of return would supply a theosophical and preformationist model for understanding life cycles. He notes that the eighteenth-century French biologist Charles Bonnet used the term "evolution" to "describe the sequences of palingeneses by which" a given species "rises toward biological complexity and spiritual perfection" following "a program placed in the germs at the Creation unfolds in its divinely preordained pattern" (McCalla 425, 427). The very etymology of evolution, from the Latin evolvere, to unroll a text, authorizes a reading of evolution as palingenetic through its connotation of the gradual unfurling of the divine plan.

Bonnet's promotion of palingenetic evolution would influence philosophical work on socio-historical developments. In particular, he inspired the Lyonnais philosopher Pierre-Simon Ballanche. In Palingenesie sociale (1829), Ballanche writes that "[c]e que Charles Bonnet a essaye pour l'homme individuel, je l'ai tentepour l'homme collectif" (304). Ballanche suggests that society could be heir to past preparatory societies while it stayed "toujours identique et toujours homogene" (302-03). In line with Bonnet's vision of evolution, Ballanchian social palingenesis depicts humanity's evolution as the progressive unfurling of a preformed essence. Over the course of generations and through periods of expiatory crises, such as the French Revolution, collective humanity would gain broader access to the social structures that would support the unfurling of man's true essence. This palingenetic philosophy of history completes itself in healing of man's rupture from God in the Garden of Eden.

Just as Ballanche would revive Bonnet's work within a philosophical framework, Romantic writers would expand upon Ballanche's work within framework of literary narrative. The young Victor Hugo participated in this movement. There exist conspicuous philosophical and professional connections between the writer and the social philosopher. One should anticipate similarities because, as McCalla points out in A Romantic Historiosophy, Ballanche greatly influenced the early French Romantic movement for which Hugo served, in the eyes of some contemporaries, as the de facto leader. (6) The two were also joint contributors to an edition of the Revue du progres social where each advocated a version of Ballanchian palingenetic social progress (Me Calla, 365). Shortly after the completion of this project, Hugo split from this circle of "royalist romantic Catholic poets" (354). In reading Paris alongside Ballanche's 1829 Palingenesie sociale, one observes that Hugo had not totally abandoned the principles of Ballanchian palingenesis. While Jacques Roos, like McCalla has discerned parallels between Ballanche's and Hugo's vision of the expiatory suffering that leads man to an increasing access to unity with fellow man and with God, neither scholar has treated Paris. (1) McCalla does not extend his study into the Second Empire, and Roos focuses primarily on portions of Hugo's La Legende des siecles where direct borrowing from Palingenesie sociale is suspected. Refuting such claims of literary thievery, Pierre Albouy suggests that existing overlaps are merely philosophical meeting points "au sein d'un 'genie du romantisme', commun au mystique Lyonnais et au mage de Guernesey" (116). Whether similarities are markers of early influences, of "une ecriture hospitaliere" that, to borrow from Cecile Matthey, welcomed the presence of segments of Ballanche's text, or of a shared, residual Romantic atmosphere, Hugo's frequent emphasis upon how Paris contained the essence of past civilizations and would complete itself in a great return to Humanity's original unity underscores the philosophical priority given to Ballanchian palingenesis.

Early in the text Hugo draws upon the Ballanchian image of the chrysalis to describe the initial stages of civilization's self-actualizing process. When presenting the primitive origins of Paris Hugo writes that, "[1]a chrysalide d'une ville est dans ces broussailles. Cette cite en germe, le climat la couve" (12). (8) In these obscure beginnings, Hugo marks transitions from a vegetal and atmospheric shell to a mineral and architectural shell for the burgeoning city: "Tibere a, pour ainsi dire, pose la premiere pierre de Notre-Dame; c'est lui qui avait trouve cette place bonne pour un temple, et qui y avait erige un autel au dieu Cerennos et au taureau Esus" (15). Providing a Parisian version Saint Peter, Hugo has fellow exile Tiberius lay the first stone of Notre-Dame. From this beginning Paris would quickly expand. "Prenez les plans de Paris a ses divers ages. Superposez-les l' un a l' autre concentriquement a Notre-Dame. ... [L] 'effect du grossissement est terrible. Vous croyez voir, au bout d'une lunette, 1' approche grandissante d'unastre" (14). For the late Jacques Seebacher, this cartographical view of Paris reads like a photographic zoom from the fifteenth century to the nineteenth century (93). For Hugo, this expansion confirms the spatial centrality of lie de la Cite, this seed-shaped island in the middle of the Seine, around which Paris would develop.

Those attempting to control this city would try to staunch this growth. Ambitious rulers would attempt to contain the naturally expansive Paris through the creation of walls. What had been an early site of worship had become a site of repressive politics and architecture. During the period that Hugo calls "the promiscuity of towers" the Bastille, and other symbols of the despotic grasp of royal power, loomed over city's center while walls restrained growth. It was only by way of enclosing the city that, Hugo notes, pre-revolutionary regimes managed to rule over Paris (36).

Any visitor to the 1867 Universal Exhibition would be able to see proof of failed attempts to reign in the city. This history was immediately visible and comprehensible in the city's ruins: "Si trouble et si epaisse que soit l'histoire, elle a des transparences, regardez-y. Tout ce qui est mort comme fait, est vivant comme enseignement. ... Sous le Paris actuel, 1' ancien Paris est distinct, comme le vieux texte dans les interlignes du nouveau" (18-19). Being something between heterogeneous architectural space and text, Paris invites the observation of a reader who is something between a mobile flaneur and a discerning historian.

The above citation confirms Priscilla Parkhurst Ferguson's observation that Hugo viewed Paris as a text to be read. Ferguson suggests that Hugo's "vital contribution" to the Paris-Guide project was the presentation of Paris as the singular and intelligent force behind civilization's progress (72). For Ferguson, the emphasis on revolutionary progress reveals Paris to be a reformulation of Notre-Dame de Paris's gloomy "ANAI'KH" (fatality) into a more optimistic fatality to be found in the certain totalization of "the promise of revolutionary Paris" (75). As Albouy has noted, this movement from "I' Ananke a la Redemption universelle" represents an about-face for Hugo because the laws of "Ananke rend impossible les recommencements, les rehabilitations" (265). Rehabilitation is indeed a central point of concern in the Paris. Hugo works through this thematic on two different levels. The first makes large-scale reference to Paris's recuperation of preparatory civilizations. The second is the city's return to an original male identity.

Under Hugo's pen, the exceptional quality of Paris is to he found in its metempsychotic absorption of history's great cities:
  Aujourd'hui de Jerusalem il reste un gibet, le Calvaire; d'
  Athenes, une ruine, le Parthenon; de Rome, un fantome, I'
  empire romain. Ces villes sont-elles mortes? Non. L'oeuf brise
  somme de ces trois cites. II les amalgame dans son unite. Par un
  cote, il ressuscite Rome, par l' autre, Athenes, par
  l' autre, Jerusalem (42).

Referencing eggs, flying birds, and spirits moving to a new, more vital location, Hugo employs the vocabulary of metempsychosis to describe how Paris came into its regal inheritance. Through this procedure of relocation, Hugo operates a retroactive recentering of Western civilization's progress in Paris.

From the moment of this transfer Paris would become the location of continued revelation and the location of a second crucifix. "Dans cette cite-la aussi il y a eu un crucifix. La, et pendant dix-huit cents ans aussi,--nous avons compte les gouttes de sang tout a l' heure,--en presence du grand crucifie, Dieu, qui pour nous est 1'Homme, a saigne l'autre grand crucifie, le Peuple. Paris, lieu de la revelation revolution-naire, est la Jerusalem humaine" (43). 1789 would be the moment when the Paris would repeat Christ's final call for unity. While the Gospel of Matthew suggests that the final cry of Christ was indecipherable (27:50-53 KJV), the "gospel of Hugo" would have Christ's final word to be "Fraternity." "Le mot Fraternite n'a pas ete en vain jete dans les profondeurs, d'abord du haut du Calvaire, ensuite du haut de 89" (39). Revolutionary Paris's resurrection of Christ's work begins in 1789 when "[d]u cri du Golgotha [Paris] a tire les Droits de 1'homme" (42). Before Paris could spread the Word, it would need to develop its distinctly male strength.

Prior to his description of 1789, Hugo selects a range of linguistic descriptors that portray Paris to be something akin to a walled-away woman. Hugo writes that,
  Murer Paris, ce fut le reve. Stabitile sous cloture; cette
  discipline imposee aux moines, on a voulu imposer a Paris.
  De la contre la croissance de cette ville mille
  precautions, et beaucoup de ceinlures bouclces avec des
  tours. ... Amour de cette ville, la monarchie a passe son
  temps a construire des enceintes, et la philosophic a les detruire
  Comment? Par la simple irradiation de la pensee. Pas de plus
  irresistible puissance. Un rayonnement est plus fort
  qu'une muraille (36-37).

In this presentation of Paris's ligation, Hugo subverts the image of constraint through the usage of a series of homonyms that accentuate Parisian reproductive dynamism in spite of the city's tightly controlled growth. From the beginning, Hugo juggles murer, to wall off, and murer, to ripen, to make mature. The verb of restraint changes with the inscription of the architectural diacritic circonflex. The invisible circonflex hints at Paris's sly, invisible self-actualization underneath the visible weight of royal efforts to seal progress way with mortar.

In addition, sequestration would reflect the rigorous repression of Paris's sexual maturity through the imposition of monastic chastity. The configuration of impenetrable walls surrounding the city contained Paris's potential extraterritorial and transhistorical influence. The usage of ceinture launches the reader further into a crisscrossing of restrictive and reproductive references subsequent to this evocation of chastity. La ceinture de chastete, a chastity belt locked with a key reverberates in the image of belts buckled with towers, as this was the primary function of the walls surrounding the city.

The final homonym Hugo employs in reference to ambitions to isolate Paris is enceinte, referring to that which encloses an area as well as the state of being pregnant. All efforts to wall off the city would have the undesired effect of facilitating Paris's maturation. Resting upon a palingenetic structure of change, the realization of the preformed Paris contained within the city walls would be inevitable. Hugo's poetics of Paris support this philosophy: Language itself exposes the impossibility of restricting the capital's influential arrival. Though walled, the capital would mature; though enclosed, it would gestate a mystically powerful light originating in part to the trinity of essences of the great preparatory civilizations. Hugo connects this to the irreversible and international progression of history's truth: man's liberty. The date marking the end of Paris's pregnancy would be July 14, 1789, the moment of the deliverance of this light and the marking of a beginning: "Remarquez ce mot: Naissance. II correspond an mot Delivrance. Dire: la mere est delivree, cela veut dire: I'enfant est ne. Dire: la France est libre, cela veut dire l'ame humaine est majeure. La vraie naissance, c'est la virilite. Le 14 juillet 1789, 1'heure de l'age viril a sonne. Qui a fait le 14 juillet? Paris" (36-37). Paris comes full circle, delivering itself and realizing its preformed essence. Suddenly, the social palingenesis that aptly described the transfer of Athens, Rome and Jerusalem into Paris becomes inadequate to explain this mystical moment. 1789 was more than a palingenetic event. It was parthenogenetic, a virgin birth. A once female Paris would reproduce alone. Her creation was a new masculine self.

No longer figured as a repressed feminine entity threatened by promiscuous towers, the male Paris is an explosive source of revolutionary light. The gender shift is crucial to Hugo's development of a parallel between the son of God and Paris. Hugo begs the pilgrim-visitors to have faith in the power of the Christ-like capital: "Que les peuples viennent dans ce prodigieux alphabet de monuments, dc tombeaux et de trophees epeler la paix et desapprendre la haine. Qu'ils aient confiance" (59). This reference to bibles of rocks, the alphabet of monuments, and the call to read the book of the city invites the return to eighteenth-century readings of evolution whereby the original Latin sense of reading an unrolling of a divine text. In this way Hugo returns to evolution its ascendant sense and secures Paris's legitimacy as the preordained leader of Humanity's progress. Hugo puts it quite boldly: "Ce que Revolution veut, Dieu le veut" (39). The 1867 Universal Exhibition would offer the moment for the global expansion of Paris's message of Fraternity. This ambition invites us to read Paris's gender switch as a strategy for empowering the masculine Paris to exceed the role of passive Christ-like figure and to become an active instigator of international change.

Here Hugo breaks with Ballanche. For the latter, each individual is responsible for his own evolution: "Le monde est une creation palingenesique et continue, dans tous les degres de l'organisation. Nous avons vu que l'homme etait une image de cette creation palingenesique; mais ajoutons ici qu'il est tenu d'y cooperer par ses propres efforts, par des actes libres de sa volonte" (336). To violate the organic processes of change was criminal. Ballanche levied such a charge against the United States of America. A vigorous opponent of colonization, Ballanche criticized this young and aberrant nation's expansion because it came at the expense of both uprooted Africans who became victims of a very "peculiar institution" and of indigenous populations whose throat-slit corpses lined the way (364-365). While Ballanche does not explain how an otherwise unillurninated people might gain access to the light needed for palingenetic evolution, he maintains that change must be organic.

Hugo claims the opposite. Paris had a moral imperative to intervene in the dark corners of the earth. For Hugo, Paris's post-revolutionary gender switch offers the means by which Paris could realize humanity's essential unity. Hugo employs the masculine figure of the sower to depict Paris's dispersion of revolutionary: "Paris est un semeur. Ou seme-t-il? Dans les tenebres. Que seme-t-il? Des etincelles" (44). This would be the biological imperative of city: "La fonction de Paris, c'est la dispersion de l'idee. Secouer sur le monde l'inepuisable poignee de verites, e'est la son devoir, et il le remplit. Faire son devoir est un droit" (44). Following the period of the promiscuous royal towers, Paris would instigate the age of the promiscuity of light. In possession of virile power, Paris would sow flaming seeds of progress beyond its borders. The resulting conflagration would burn the hold dogma, superstition and oppressive ideology, preparing the world for the evangelistic revelation of light.

However, this aspiration toward a future unity is highly unstable within the economy of the text because the total unity that Hugo envisions is impossible. Central to Hugo's philosophy of history is that residue from past civilizations linger in new ones: "La civilisation traverse des phases quelconques, toujours dominee par la phase precedente" (38). If past phases maintain their presence in new one, then the new Paris would enclose both Roman despotism and one of Christian agape. The past would never fully disappear. Because of this, the peaceful Paris that Hugo envisions can only come into being through a negotiation of the despotism that continued to mark the city. This works to explain how the peaceful optimism of the text shifts toward a discourse on domination. This movement is apparent in two distinct metaphors that Hugo uses to describe the Universal Exhibition. The first is reproductive, the second is explosive.

For Hugo, the rendezvous of nation at the 1867 Universal Exhibition offered the opportunity for intimate contact with Paris:
  L'annee 1866 a ete le choc des peuples, l'annee 1867 sera leur
  rendez-vous. Les rendez-vous sont des revelations. La ou il y a
  rencontre, il y a entente, attraction, frottement, contact fecond et
  utile, eveil des initiatives, intersection des convergences,
  rappel des deviations au but, fusion des contraires dans
  1'unite; telle est l'excellence des rendez-vous. II en
  sort un eclaircissement (59).

In this passage the Exhibition serves as a sort of marriage suite for the virile Paris and its visiting nations. Situating himself between the past events of 1866 and the future of 1867, Hugo figures himself as a Janus-faced narrator of the city. Figure of physical and spiritual gateways, the god Janus reflects the very mission of Hugo's narration that he situates between the lessons of the past and the predictions of the future. This diachronic and spiritual perch is one that was already present in Ballanche's Essai sur les institutions sociale. The philosopher claimed this doubled perspective so that he might use "l'une pour regarder ce qui a ete, et en tirer les derniers enseignements, l'autre pour considerer ce qui s'avance, et en prevoir les resultats" (107). Reference to the Janus recalls Homi Bhabha's description of this figure in Narration of the Nation. Bhabha sees this figure as characterizing the very project of narrating a nation (or in Hugo's case, a capital). Bhabha writes that this two-faced god is an apt figure for the "discourse of the nation" because it is a figure "of prodigious doubling that investigates the nation-space in the process of the articulation of elements: where meaning may be partial because they are in medias res; and history may be half-made because it is in the process of being made; and the image of cultural authority may be ambivalent because it is caught, uncertainly, in the act of 'composing' its powerful image" (3). Paris functions within this ambivalence. It serves as a meditation upon a past that foreshadows a particular future. At the same time, it reveals Hugo's negotiation of Paris's two constitutive pasts, one repressive, and the other liberationist.

This tension between Paris's passive Christ-like characteristics and its expansive virility accounts for much of the text's dynamism. While this schizophrenia might undermine Paris's stability, Hugo does not worry over this dualism for he is quite certain of Paris's "cultural authority." In the half-made moment of a Paris preparing itself and the world for its inevitable supremacy, Hugo accepts this ambivalence. We see this in the second metaphor for the Universal Exhibition.
  Une exposition universelle, a Paris, et en 1867, c'est une brusque
  rupture partout a la fois et un splendide vol en eclats de tous
  les batons dans les roues. Nous disons tous, et nous ne nous
  opposons a aucun des reves que contient ce monosyllabe immense.
  Un grand espoir de clarte prochaine, c'est la toute notre vie.
  Allons, allons, incendiez-vous dans le progres. Une chevelure
  de flamme sur votre tas de charbon noir. Peuples, vivez (6I).

While Hugo may emphasize the fraternal unity of the future, we see in the above imagery a return to the palingenetic emphasis on suffering as a precondition for this progressive and unified future. The endgame of Hugo's philosophy of history closes with an invitation for the world's diverse peoples to partake in a global immolation of difference. Submission to this universal conflagration would serve as a purgative erasure of all difference, uniting humanity.

In Paris Hugo borrows from the Christ narrative and Ballanche's theosophical evolutionary model of palingenesis to legitimize Paris's ascension. The emergence of violent, hegemonic language of cultural domination in the text invites modern readers to see Paris as a negotiation of the capital's repressive characteristics that remained present in 1867. This assertive and expansive image of Paris hints of the more fully developed vision of the universalizing capital that arises in Quatrevingt-treize. This particular reading of Paris opens onto a series of questions regarding contemporary philosophies of history and the influence of domestic and foreign evolutionary theories. Hugo is not alone in the act of marshalling evolutionary science to guarantee nationalistic philosophies of history. Looking outside of the genre of literature, the historian Jules Michelet also evidences a relocation of revolutionary energy and promise to the cyclical movements of Nature. Just as French evolutionary theory assured Parisian supremacy for Hugo, Lamarckian evolutionary cycles of birth, rebirth and death assured the revival of an original French unity for Michelet. Michelet's La Mer (1861) supplies the greatest evidence of this ideological overlap. (9) The shifts in Hugo's philosophies of history (as well as those of other thinkers) during the Second Empire offer a rich area of future study as they rest largely ignored.

While Paris supplies a discourse on the capital's right of expansion, there is something far more prosaic about this text and in Hugo's gesture. The image of the predictable and "scientifically" assured universalization of Paris opens onto the exiled writer's desire to once again be in contact with his city. The palingenetic process of return offers hope that this desire for unity with Paris, the origin, might be one day satisfied. It would be through the promise of this ever-expanding Paris that Hugo envisions his reconnection with his patrie. In this way, the model of palingenesis serves to create a Hugolian version of the popularized British phrase "the sun never sets on our Empire." Hugo's totalized Paris would extend itself beyond France's shores, to the island of Guernsey and to Hauteville House. The Sun would never again set on Paris and the light of Paris would never again disappear from Hugo's horizon.

University of Colorado at Boulder


(1.) This Idler, dated May 9, 1856, is located in Jean-Marie Carre's collection of the correspondence between Jules Miehelet and Victor Hugo. Jean-Marie Carre, Miehelet et son temps (Paris: Perrin, 1926) 57.

(2.) So as not to confuse Paris-Guide with Hugo's introduction. Hugo's contribution will be referred to as "Paris."

(3.) On the whole. Paris rests largely ignored. It is absent from Walter Benjamin, Paris, Capital? du XIXe siecle: le livre das passages. 3rd ed., trans. Jean Laeoste (Paris: Les Editions du cerf, 2002). Out of Hugo's oeuvre, Les Miserable receives the most attention in Benjamin's text. This is emblematic of the paucity of writings on Paris. Some insightful critical works do exist. Jean Massin introduces this work for his edition of Hugo's complete works. Examining the structure of Paris; Massin argues that Hugo makes an explicit refusal of the Paris of the present. This refusal. Massin contends, is bound to a larger prophetic stance on the part, of the author. According to Massin, this prophetic vision clearly mimics Saint Paul's epistles. What Massin calls Hugo's "epitre aux Parisians'" describes the "[...] avenir assure par la foi dans le saint deja present [...] en insistant sur leur recompense proche et certaine" (569). The Christian leanings of Paris an; undeniable. This study of Hugo's exploitation of Christian theories of evolution builds upon Massin's argument. For Massin's presentation of Paris, see Victor Hugo. OEuvres completes, Ed. Jean Massin. Vol. 13 (Paris: Le Club francais dtt livre, 1969) 561-572. The late Jacques Seebacher included a short, chapter on the European political context for both Paris and the 1867 Universal Exhibition in his Victor lingo, on le ealcul des profondeurs. (Paris: Presses Universitaires de Paris. 1993). 82-94. Jean-Francois Mattei makes brief mention Paris in "L'ame de l'Europe ehez Platon et Hugo." Colloque de Thionviile-Vianden, 8-10 octobre 1993 Victor Hugo et I'Europe de la pensee, ed. Francoise Chenet-Faugeras (Paris: Nizet. 1995) 19-30. Priscilla Parkhurst Ferguson provides an generic study of the symbology and topology study of nineteenth-century city guides, of which Hugo's Paris is a part See Ferguson, Paris as Revolution: Writing the Nineteenth-Century City (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994) 69-75. For a purely semiotic approach, sec Marion Colas-Blaise, "Elements pour une 'grammaire' du temps chez Victor Hugo: une analyse semiotique de Paris." Actes du colloque de Luxembourg-Vianden, 8-11 novembre 2002: Aetualite[s] de Vietor Hugo, ed. Frank Wilhelm (Paris: Maisonneuve & Larose, 2005) 153-178.

(4.) While this is not the proper place for a full presentation of debates between Lamarek, Cuvier, Lyell, Darwin and others, it is worth mentioning that at the time when Hugo wrote Paris, there existed no consensus on evolutionary processes. For our purposes, it should be stated that the above-mentioned scientists did challenge univocal beliefs in Biblical literalism. Amongst the evolutionary models from which Hugo could draw, he opted for a theosophical one. For more on the debates and the effects of various evolutionary theories in France, see Pietro Corsi, The Age if Lamarek: Evolutionary Theories in France 1790-1830 (Berkeley: University of California Press. 1989) Stuart Michael Persell, Neo-Lamarekism and the Evolution Controversy in France, 1870-1920 (Lewiston. NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 1999): Madeleine Barthelemy-Madaule, La-marek, The Mythical Precursor: A Study of the Relations between Science and Ideology (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. 1982). In particular chapter five (120-142). Both Persell and Barthelemy-Madaule offers analyses of the resurgence of Lamarek as the French alternative to Darwin in the 1860s. One wonders if Hugo's adaptation of Ballanche might not be a precursor to what: Barthelemy-Madaule terms the "scientifie patriotism" of the post-Franco-Prussian war period.

(5.) For the complete references see Matthew 19:28 and Titus 3:3-5 KJV.

(6.) Sec the description of Hugo in Le Rivarol de 1842: dietionnaire satirique des celebrites contemporaines: "Sanglier de la litterature, condamne a ravager le champ de son propre genie. Chef puissant des hordes romantiques, entre dernieremenr a 1' Academic en vainqueur, comme les barbares Gaulois dans Rome, pour honnir et frapper au visage les vieux senateurs impotents du genre elassique. Ses oeuvres ressemblent a des symphonies de Berlioz exeeutees par Musard." Mesure. Fortune, Le Rivarol de 1842: Dietionnaire satirique des celebrites contemporaines (Paris: Bureau de feuilleton mensuel, 1842) 99-100. This entry appeared the year after Hugo's election to the Academic francaise, and same year of Ballanehe's election.

(7.) Susan Murphy has also suggested a connection between Ballanche and Hugo. She has briefly argued that the influence of Ballanehe's writings on Hugo's Quatreving-treize merits further study. Susan Murphy. "Pierre-Simon Ballanche and Victor Hugo's Quatrevingt treize" French Literature Series, 6 (1979) 141-44.

(8.) Ballanehe writes; "La ehrysalide, qui fut une chenille rampante, devient. l'eclatant papillon qui se joue avec tant de grace dans le vague des airs, qui se repose a peine sur le calice embaume des flours: mais cette metamorphose, embleme si prodtgue par l'Auteur de la vie universelle, est tout organique; the s'opere sans que la chenille ait besoin d'y concourir" (336). Pierre-Simon Ballanche, Oeuvres completes (Geneve: Slatkine Reprints. 1967).

(9.) While Hugo was preparing his Les Travailleurs de la Mer, he read Miehelet's La Mer. On January 18, 1861. Hugo wrote to Miehelet his reaction to the historian's work: "Nous nous cotoyons et je le constate [...] eette automne, j'ai presqu' ecrit un volume sur la mer et voici que voire livre m arrive. Je l'ai lu, je l'ai devore, je vais le relire; il y a naturellenient et necessairement des points on mon etude touche votre travail (les Hours de la mer, les faiseurs du monde). Je suis tout heurcux de ees rencontres. Je vous remereie dc ec maguifique livre" (Carre, 63).

Works Cited

Albouy. Pierre, La Creation mythologique chez Victor Hugo. Paris: Librairie Jose Corti, 1963.

Ballanehe. Pierre-Simon. Oeuvres completes. Geneve: Slatkine Reprints, 1967.

Barthelemy-Madaule, Madeleine. Lamarck, The Mythical Precursor: A Study of the Relations between Science and Ideology. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press. 1982.

Benjamin. Waller. Paris, Capitale du XIXe siecle: le livre des passages, Jean Lacoste, trans., 3rd ed., Paris; Les Editions du eerf. 2002.

Bhabha, Homi K. ed. Narration of the Nation. London: Routeledge, 1990.

Burkhardt, Richard W. 'The Spirit of System: Lamarek and Evolutionary Biology. Cambridge. Mass: Harvard University Press, 1977.

Carre, Jean-Marie. Miehelet et son temps. Paris: Perrin, 1926.

Colas-Blaise, Marion. "Elements pour une 'grammaire' du temps chez Victor Hugo: une analyse semiotique de Paris" Actes du colloque de Luxemboourg-Vianden, 8-11 novembre 2002: Actualite[s] de Victor Hugo. Frank Wilhelm, ed., Paris: Maisonneuve & Larose. 2005. 153-178.

Corsi. Pietro. The Age of Lamarck: Evolutionary Theories in France 1790-1830. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989.

Cuvier, Georges. Le Regne animal. Paris: Deterville, 1817. Darwin, Charles. On the Origin of Species. Cambridge. MA: Harvard University Press. 1964.

Ferguson, Prisella Parkhurst. Paris as Revolution: Writing the Nineteenth Century City. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994.

Hugo, Victor. Choses vues: Souvenirs, journaux, cuhiers 1885 Ed. Hubert Juin. Paris: Gallimard, 1972.

-- Contemplations. Paris: GF Flammarion: 1995.

-- La Legende des sieicles. Paris: GF Plammarion: 1967.

-- Les Miserables. Paris: Gallimard, 1995.

-- Notre-Dame de Paris. Paris: GF Plammarion, 1967.

--OEuvres completes. Ed. .Joan Massin, vol. 13. Paris: Le Club francats du livre, 1969.

-- Paris. Paris-Guide. Brussels: Lacroix. Verboeekhoven et Cie, 1867.

-- Quatrevingt-treize. Paris: Livres de poche, 2001.

-- Les Travailleurs de la Mer. Paris: Gallimard, 1980.

Lamarck. Jean-Baptiste. Histoire naturelle des animaux sans vertebres. Paris: Verdicre, 1815.

Laurent, Franck. Victor Hugo: Espace et politique (jusqu' a l' exil: 1823 1852). Rennes: Presses Universitaires do Rennes, 2008.

Lyell, Charles. Principles of Geology. London: J. Murray. 1830-1833.

MeCalla, Arthur, "Palingenesie Philosophiquo to Palingenesie Sociale: From a Seientifie Ideology to a Historical Ideology." Journal of the History of Ideas, 55 no. 3 (1994). 421-39.

-- A Romantic Historiosophy: The Philosophy of History of Pierre-Simon Ballanche. Le iden: Brill, 1998.

Mattei, Jean-Francois, "L'Ame de l'Europe chez Platon et Hugo." Golloque de Thionville-Vianden, 8-10 oetobre 1993-Victor Hugo l 'Europe de la pensee. Francoise Chenet Faugeras, ed., Paris: Nizet, 1995, 19-30.

Matthey, Ceeile. L.'Ecriture hospitaliere: L'Espace de la croyanee dans Les Trois Conies de Flaubert. Amsterdam: Lditions Rodopi B.V., 2008.

Mesure, Fortune. Le Rivarot de 1842: Dictionnaire satirique des celebrites contemporaines. Paris: Bureau de feuilleton mensucl, 1842.

Michelet, Jules. La Mer. Paris: Gallimard, 1983.

Murphy, Susan. "Pierre Simon Ballanche and Victor Hugo's Quatrevingt-treize." French Literature Series, 6 (1979). 141 44.

Persell, Stuart Michael. Neo-Lamarekism and the Evolution Controversy in France. 1870 -1020. Lewiston: Edwin Mellen Press, 1999.

Petitier, Paule. La Question, des origines ehez les historiens franeais du XIXe siecie. Tours: L'Universite Francois-Rabelais, 1992.

Roos, Jacques. Les Idees philosophique de Victor Hugo: Ballanche et Victor Hugo. Paris: Nizet, 1958.

Seebacher. Jacques. Victor Hugo, ou le caleul des profondeurs. Paris: Presses Universitaires do Paris, 1993.
COPYRIGHT 2010 University of Pennsylvania Press
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2010 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Artes, Skyler
Publication:French Forum
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:4EUFR
Date:Jan 1, 2010
Previous Article:Books received.
Next Article:Laure's war: selfhood and sacrifice in Colette Peignot.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2022 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |