A Cultural History of the French Revolution

Emmet Kennedy, Author Yale University Press $55 (448p) ISBN 978-0-300-04426-3
In this scholarly, ambitious synthesis, Kennedy paints the French Revolution as ``a profound cultural event.'' Readily admitting that this violent political upheaval did not engender many enduring artistic creations, he sees the Revolution as a force of demolition that negated the culture of the old order as its ``religion of man'' paved the way for secular individualism. Popular French melodramas and ``black novels'' prefigured, then mirrored, the wickedness of the Reign of Terror. In painting, an ``aesthetics of ruin'' announced the ancien regime's collapse, and even Jacques-Louis David's classicism brimmed over with angry defiance. A professor of history at George Washington University, Kennedy shows how the Revolution created a cultural vacuum that radical leaders tried to fill with a subsidized press, republican music, secular festivals, didactic theater, a civic religion. Dozens of period engravings and paintings enliven the proceedings. (June)
Reviewed on: 09/01/1989
Release date: 09/01/1989
Genre: Nonfiction
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