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Volume 1, redone Dec. 2014


Volume 1


Orest's Pages

Patricia's Musings



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Transcribed Sources


 Patrick Hutton on Philippe Ariès

Patrick H. Hutton, Philippe Ariès and the Politics of French Cultural History (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2004).

One fine Saturday, over two decades ago, we drove over to Washington to have lunch with Philippe and Primerose Ariès in their flat. Philippe and I went down to buy some wine in a very local DC liquor store. To his surprise and immense pleasure, there were bottles of Château Citran lying in a half-barrel on the floor. Philippe bought one and excitedly explained to me that he knew the proprietor before the war, an elderly gentleman who would frequently sit in a simple arbor out among his vines and read Latin classics. Philippe remembered all this with immense fondness.

As lunch became ready, Philippe prepared to open the wine bottle. His shaky hands (he had a condition: the more he wanted to steady his hands, the more they shook), finally got it open (I dared not volunteer to help him), and poured some into a glass. Tasting it, he said: "Oui, c'est ça, c'est le même." The continuity in the taste of the Citran gave him intense pleasure as he again told the story about the propriétaire whom he had known and admired prior to the war. Philippe would not have wanted to own a vineyard late in life, but the propriétaire's love for reading the classics in Latin was what Huizinga called a "historical ideal of life." Philippe's commute from Maisons-Lafitte to Paris included reading some Latin. When I knew him, he was frequently reading late-Antique or early Christian liturgical texts edited by a society devoted to their study. I believe the introductory matter and notes were also in Latin. He loved the sonority and the simplicity of these phrases. At Primerose's funeral in Saint-Martin-le-Viehl, north of route N113, from Alzonne (not at Castelnaudary), Philippe read an early funeral ordo after the service, just before the coffin was placed in the Saint-Martin vault.

* * *

I lack the learning in twentieth-century French history to review Patrick Hutton's book, so what follows are mere comments from a friendly reader. The main theme -- how commitment to Maurras and Action Française gradually shifted to a notion of mentalités and their history seems correct to me, and only a close reading of both Maurras and Ariès might yield a deeper understanding of the shift from the one to the other. Philippe read and talked about virtually every French sociological and historical writing from the Twenties up to the Seventies; and like a philosopher (not a historian of philosophy), he made thought his own and did not keep a very careful record of where some idea "came from." I know he read Halbwachs on the collective (the not-conscious is not the Freudian unconscious: Hutton is right there), but I do not know how that influenced his own thinking.

 Similarly, Fernand Braudel came to stress "routine" in social history and "rhythms" (markets, fishing, brushing teeth), and the result was to stress a historiography that seemed to be below what people recalled, or said they recalled. I'm not suggesting influence here, but more or a generational perspective inherited partly from works by H. Berr, L. Febvre, and M. Bloch. Philippe thought and wrote about mentalités, as a new approach to which he was contributing but did not think he had invented.

In debate, Philippe often would come up with a formulation that was easily footnoted, and literally from Rousseau. When you said this to him, he would quote a right-wing dicton: "... la Révolution c'est la faute à Rousseau" (p. 36).

The idealization of corporatism (p. 47) was very strong in the 1930s and 1940s. Oliver-Martin's big work on the subject comes out of this royalist perspective. Does that of E. Lousse -- I do not know. Ralph Giesey alludes to the links between corporatism and fascism, as if this was a Europe-wide relationship. I lack competence to go further here, but for someone like Philippe, corporatism certainly remained a bulwark against "mass society" and "dangerous" classes.

Pat Hutton might have noted and elaborated a bit more on the importance of visual sources to Philippe. Pictures of children as little adults were very important sources for the general argument in Centuries of Childhood. Lawrence Stone, who wrote a splendid work on medieval sculpture (sic), could not accept iconographic materials as sources that are equal to written ones. For him, what is written held more objective truth. But despite his harsh critiques (and those of Darnton), Lawrence did in fact integrate into his own work much of what Ariès found. Philippe felt wounded by Darnton, but he went on. He saw it as something almost ontological. He would say: "Chacun a son Darnton."

A boutade comes to mind: Philippe remarked that he did not want to go to the Metropolitan Museum because there were no bad pictures in the collection. A Romantic perspective (his eyes would sparkle when I would assert this) led him to look toward popular art as a more authentic expression, not just of 1) popular culture, but also of 2) the general not-conscious, and 3) the cultural artifact that would later be expressed in words!

Images de l'homme devant la mort (1983) is a chef d'oeuvre of historical writing. It is a work expressing the mentalités approach, but it is also much more. Here is the dedication: "A celle [Primerose] qui m'a fait aimer les images et qui m'aida à les découvrir là où je passais sans les voir, je dédie ce livre, qui réveille à chaque page des souvenirs de notre vie." Here Philippe was not being romantic; he was recognizing his debt to a piercing "observationist." She had the trained eye of a surgeon, her father's profession.

The final illustration in Images comes from Ingmar Bergman's Cries and Whispers (1972). I shall not attempt to summarize the brilliant synthesis of texts with this image of the dying woman in the arms of her servant -- a pietà in form, with transcendent power, le "pouvoir du signe."

The book was written while Primerose was being treated for her fatal illness. Philippe would read to her, as together they sought to tame death just a little. The staff at Seuil responded to this couple and worked very hard to find illustrations for an ever-growing, anguishing book project. Philippe, shaken, continued to look death straight in the eye throughout the writing. Primerose's conversion experience occurred later. Thus the question of belief, or its solace, remained ineffable.

The Arièses (and the Ranums) were received at the Wissenschaftskolleg by the rector, Professor Docktor Peter Wapnewski, and his associate, Dr. Joachim Nettelbeck. It would be impossible to think of a more cordial and supportive pair for the Arièses than Dr. and Mrs. Nettelbeck.

On p. 158 of Hutton's book, the picture shows the maire adjoint of Tours (not Roger Chartier) during a ceremony in which I was awarded the bronze medal of Tours. The occasion was a splendid conference on "games" sponsored by the Renaissance Center of Tours and organized by Jean-Claude Margolin and Philippe.