Posted by: plbh88 | 10/09/2010


Sorry that it’s been forever since I’ve updated this blog. Since my last post, I’ve made a major revision in the focus of my thesis.  At the same time that I was looking at dogs at Versailles, I was also doing research on a related topic that has always fascinated me: political caricatures of the revolutionary period.  With the onset of the French Revolution, animal images and metaphors came to play a significant role in caricatures, pamphlets, and other media critical of the Ancien régime.  From barnyard fowl to exotic and mythical creatures, animal metaphors were used by revolutionaries and counterrevolutionaries alike in printed political discourse and imagery.

Basically, what interests me most is the use of real and fantastic animals in political discourse, specifically caricatures, of the revolutionary period.  What I plan to do next is look at the origins of this animal politic, beginning in the sixteenth century with the rise of the printing press and continuing with travel narratives, the development of menageries, the sensationalism of exotic animal displays (and associated charlatanism), scientific discoveries/natural histories of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, etc. The definition of “what” made a monster a “monster” or a real animal “monstrous” and why these were chosen to portray Marie-Antoinette, the National Assembly, refractory priests, etc. is kind of what I’m hoping to pinpoint.  In addition, I want to look at how actual animals became “monstrous” enough to be used to caricture political leaders and institutions during the period.

I’m not getting rid of my dog research, however. In light of my new focus, my other research gives important context to an understanding of the political symbolism of animals before 1789. In effect, there are no portraits of Louis XVI with a favorite hunting dog. During his reign, he took an active interest in utilitarian animals, establishing a merino sheep farm at Rambouillet to stimulate the French wool industry. At the same time, veiled erotic images of ladies and lapdogs fell out of style, and pamphleteers criticized the attachment that some still felt for their pets. Public animal displays were prohibited by municipal authorities on the grounds that aristocratic plots against the Revolution would make use of ferocious beasts to wreak havoc.

Au second ordre de l'Etat

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