Mudcat Café message #2018633 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #100517   Message #2018633
Posted By: Desdemona
06-Apr-07 - 05:44 PM
Thread Name: BS: Joan of Arc and family
Subject: RE: BS: Joan of Arc and family
Thanks for posting that! It's a very funny story; what won't people make relics of?! I especially liked the wholly fictitious yet authoritatively delivered comment to the effect that "[i]n medieval Europe it was common practice to throw black cats into the pyres of supposed witches." Putting aside the fact that the crimes for which Joan was convicted and burned were heresy and apostasy, I've studied witchcraft in the European Middle Ages pretty closely, and that's a new one on me!

I did a great deal of work on Joan of Arc in the past; in fact, I even used to impersonate her, and all in the line of duty...long story. She's a fascinating character on so many levels, not least of which is her continuing grip on the popular imagination nearly 600 years after her death. I attribute her staying power in part to a certain chameleon-like quality, and the ease with which she can be cast and recast to serve various agenda. The poor thing has been pressed into ideological service as everything from proto-Protestant martyr (nonsense) to proto-feminist (meh...) to misunderstood saint (but not til 1920!) all the way to nationalist icon.

In films alone she's been interpreted as an ethereal mystic, a bratty teenybopper, a mentally unstable fanatic, and a bunch of other stuff along the way. For a particularly fascinating take, see Cecil B. DeMille's 1916 "Joan the Woman," an overt plea on the part of the film-maker for the USA to become involved in World War I and come to the aid of the again-beleaguered France. Taking astonishing liberties with the historical record, DeMille uses a contemporary framing device to juxtapose Joan's willingness to sacrifice herself for the greater good against her nation's current need for a saviour, all the while stressing Joan's "ordinary, womanly" qualities. One of the most interesting things is that this reinterpretation of their national heroine had such a chilly reception in France that it had to be heavily edited into a straight-up piece of patriotic propaganda...while American audiences were apparently willing to see Joan as a "regular" girl, the French required her in a more traditional capacity.

Anyway, I can go on forever on this topic...and I guess I already have! In any case, for solidly researched and accessible books on Joan, I highly recommend Regine Pernoud's "Joan of Arc: Her Story" for a comprehensive, sensitively written biography, and Kelley DeVries' "Joan of Arc: A Military Leader" for a highly readable account of her (all-too-brief) career by a respected scholar of medieval military history. She's certainly a unique figure, and well worth getting to "know" a little better.