7 03 2013

My French Quest

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Paris is an ancient city. The origins of Paris, then called Parisii, go back to the Gallo-Roman period in 300 BC.  Today, one can still see the remnants from this period in the Arènes des Lutèce located in the Latin Quarter or in the Crypte of the Notre Dame; however, most of Paris has been built and rebuilt since that time.  The greatest transformation of this impressive city came during the reign of Napoleon III and his principal architect, Baron George Haussmann from 1850-1870.  In fact, the boulevards and architecture that Paris is famous for and that is reproduced on posters and postcards were created during these two important decades.  Not only did this team improve the visible functionality and aesthetics of Paris through new boulevards, squares, public buildings and parks, it also provided the city with a much improved sewage system and water supply. This transformation became a…

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2 03 2013

My French Quest

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Christophe Charle provides history students with an up-to-date summary of his and other social historians’ findings  on the social history of France.  Unlike recent books on this subject by Gerard Noiriel and Annie Moulin which treat the workers and peasants of French society, he gives new perspectives on all social groups including the nobility, bourgeoisie, elites, middle classes, and petty bourgeoisie.  He examines the dynamics and relationships within these groups from 1815 through the Belle Epoque of the early 1900’s with direct contact with documents and secondary sources.  While Charle respects the views of popular historian Ernest Labrousse and his Marxist interpretations of French historiography, the purpose of this book is to examine the social microhistory and the monographs of specific groups which do not fit into the Marxist and Labrousseian perspective.

Charle does argue in favor of gathering new data from the period following the Revolution  including information…

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26 01 2013

My French Quest

 

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In May of 2006, during a vacation in Paris, I saw Université de Paris, La Sorbonne for the first time. This 13th century, prestigious center of intelligence and culture is known all over the world and I was anxious to visit. There was only one problem. The guard at the door would not allow my friend or I to enter; only students are allowed.  I explained that I just wanted to look around and buy a T-shirt at the bookstore.  No, only students are allowed he repeated.  I told my friend that one day I would be back as a student and would THEN be allowed inside those hallowed doors!

Six years later and countless hours of studying French, I was awarded a graduate Internship by University of Texas, El Paso, to study at La Sorbonne in Paris.  As part of their Cours de Civilisation Francaise, I was…

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21 01 2013

My French Quest

One of the places that I was the most excited about visiting when I returned to Paris in 2012 was the Musée d’Orsay.  It was there that I first realized how much I loved the works of Auguste Renoir; his rich blues and reds, the way he captured shadows and sunlight reflecting through the trees, the sweet expressions on children’s faces, the way he arranged flowers in a simple vase to light up the room.  The d’Orsay collection introduced me to The Swing, Bal au Moulin de la Galette, and Country Dance, City Dance.   However, much to my disappointment, during the renovations over the past two years, the d’Orsay changed out much of their Renoir collection.

Of course, this is what museums are supposed to do!  They have thousands of paintings and sculptures but not much space to display them.  In addition, the last time they changed their Renoir collection…

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15 01 2013

My French Quest

In 1982 I married my best friend, the greatest guy I had ever met and the love of my life.  We met at Baylor our freshman year, dated nearly four years and married one month after we graduated.

During our courtship, we were inseparable.  After class, we would spend most of our weekdays studying in the library, taking breaks playing racquetball or fielding baseballs and serving in BSM ministries.  David had already been called into the ministry at that point so our courtship involved serving together in a local church with his Youth group on the weekends.

The hardest part of our courtship was being separated during the summer months as we went to our separate homes to work. Now, after thirty years of marriage, we have found ourselves separated again for the past six months as I have been studying in Paris for my graduate internship. You think we…

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15 01 2013

My French Quest

In 1882, Pierre-Auguste Renoir began a series of « dance » paintings. He had just returned from traveling across Europe visiting England, Algeria, Madrid, and Italy.  During his travels, he saw the masterpieces of Diego Veláquez, Titian, Raphael and other Renaissance paintings.

After returning to Paris, he lived and worked in Montmartre where he met Suzanne Valadon who would become one of his models.  Renoir began work on two large paintings that were to be exhibited together as a pair, “Dance in the City” and “Dance in the Country”. According to the Musée d’Orsay who owns the two paintings, “the elegant restraint of the city dancers and the cool ballroom around them contrasts with the gaiety of the country dance in the open air”. There are even contrasts in the cool colors for the city dance with the warmer colors he used in the country dance. However, they are similar in…

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29 12 2012

My French Quest

Musée du Louvre

This week my daughter Lorin was visiting me for the holidays.  Lorin is working on her Masters in western European History so I had my own personal tour guide to museums, monuments, crypts and regions of France.  Of course no historian’s trip to Paris is complete without a visit to the Louvre.

The Louvre was originally a medieval castle built in 1190 by Philip Auguste.  At that time, Paris was the largest city in Europe and a wall was built around it to protect from Anglo-Norman threat.   Most of this fortress was destroyed when the city of Paris began to expand, but was rediscovered in the 1980’s when the Louvre was remodeled with I.M. Pei’s famous “pyramids”.

The Louvre became the residence of French kings following the reign of Charles V until Louis XIV decided to live at the Palace of Versailles instead. It has seen many…

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29 12 2012

My French Quest

Joyeux Noël from Paris!

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From all outward appearances, Christmas is not that much different in Paris than it is in the United States.

Decorating begins around Thanksgiving, the malls and shopping districts are crowded with shoppers, and Bing Crosby’s White Christmas can be heard in just about any restaurant, café, or store in the city.

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Cathedrals are full on Christmas Eve, families gather for meals, presents and fellowship and most businesses are closed on Christmas day.

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So why should Christmas have the same meaning for me this year as I am on a different continent, separated from the ones I love dearly and miss terribly?  As I was sitting in the Notre Dame Cathedral today for Christmas Eve Mass, it became very clear to me. It is because I can still celebrate the birth of my Savior, Jesus Christ, who came to this world, the WHOLE world, so that…

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29 12 2012

My French Quest

Impressionist’s Exhibits in Paris

In 1863 Louis Napoleon III decreed that the citizens of Paris should be allowed to judge the quality and standards of art for themselves.  For the previous 100 years, the content and style of French art had been judged solely by the Académie des Beaux-Arts.  They preferred historical subjects, religious themes which were “finished” images.  Therefore, Napoleon III established the Salon des Refusés to allow the public to view the more modern artist’s work of landscapes and contemporary life.  Artists such as Pierre-August Renoir, Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Édouard Manet Alfred Sisley, and Paul Cézanne submitted their works to this exhibition.  Many of their works won prizes, garnered commissions and developed a following.

Ten years later, Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, and Sisley organized the Société Anonyme Coopérative des Artistes Peintres, Sculpteurs, Graveurs (“Cooperative and Anonymous Association of Painters, Sculptors, and Engravers”) in order to exhibit their works…

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29 12 2012

My French Quest

I first saw Les Miserables on Broadway in 1995.  I fell in love with this story, cried all the way through it and even chased Jean Valjean through the streets of NY after the play trying to get his autograph (He just kept running!!!).  True story!

Consequently, the first thing I did when I moved to Paris was to start reading Les Miserables , noting the boulevards, houses, monuments that Hugo details in the story and walking through them recreating this incredible homage to Paris.  To my surprise and fortune, I walk down these same streets every day to class, through the jardins, boulevards and houses of Les Mis.  I am still chasing Jean Valjean!

Victor Hugo’s famous novel, Les Misérables, chronicles the history of France from 1815 through 1832.  This 1500+ page tome examines the harsh consequences of breaking the law tempered with divine grace of redemption.  Weaved into…

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