By Hans-Jürgen Lüsebrink

This booklet is either an research of the Bastille as cultural paradigm and a case examine at the historical past of French political tradition. It examines particularly the storming and next fall of the Bastille in Paris on July 14, 1789 and the way it got here to symbolize the cornerstone of the French Revolution, turning into a logo of the repression of the previous Regime. Lüsebrink and Reichardt use this semiotic interpreting of the Bastille to bare how historic symbols are generated; what those symbols’ capabilities are within the collective reminiscence of societies; and the way they're utilized by social, political, and ideological groups.
To facilitate the symbolic nature of the research, this research of the evolving signification of the Bastille strikes from the French Revolution to the 19th century to modern background. The narrative additionally shifts from France to different cultural arenas, just like the sleek eu colonial sphere, the place the overthrow of the Bastille bought radical new signification within the decolonization interval of the Forties and Fifties. The Bastille demonstrates the efficiency of the interdisciplinary old learn that has characterised the top of this century, combining quantitative and qualitative ways, and taking its methodological instruments from historical past, sociology, linguistics, and cultural and literary studies.

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Its broad effect confirms a number of indicators external to the prison. A successful, only moderately enlightened writer close to the people such as Louis-Sebastien Mercier, who had no firsthand knowledge of the Bastille whatsoever, was nevertheless fascinated by it. Already in his utopia of 1770, he imagines "The new Paris" (chapter 8)without the Bastille: "They tell me, that the Bastille has been demolished by a prince who did not think himself a god among men .. " And in his portrayals of customs in prerevolutionary Paris, which were immediately translated throughout Europe, Mercier conceded that the 34 The Bastille state prisons had become deserted in comparison with earlier times.

In the upper background of the engraving, one notices a clock decorated with figures, like the one at the Bastille. The face is carried by a man and a woman who have chains on their neck, hands, and feet and around their body. These chains form 22 The Bastille Figure 5. Spilbury after Wortman and Mutlow, Live, and be free! Etching, 172 by II4 mm. Frontispiece for Linguet, Memoires. Genesis of a Political Symbol 23 a kind of frame ornament and run together in an enormous knot: this is smashed by lightning ....

The store of impounded books that the rebels discovered when they took the Bastille on 14 July 1789 did contain some radical Enlightenment tracts such as Holbach's Systemede la natureof 1770 (two copies) or Rabaut Saint-Etienne's novel Le Vieux Ceveno~ which concerned the emancipation of the Protestants of 1784 (240 copies). But mostly, it consisted of political pornography such as Mirabeau's Libertin de qualiteof 1784 (30 copies) or the Vie priveed'un Princecelebre. . 97So Michelet's vision of the Bastille as a place where the spirit of freedom was imprisoned was only a very limited reflection of historical facts.

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