Realms of Memory
A monumental collective endevour by some of France's most distinguished intellectuals, Realms of Memory explores how and why certain places, events, and figures became a part of France's collective memory, and reveals the intricate connection between memory and history. Symbols, the third and final volume, is the culmination of the work begun in Conflicts and Divisions and Traditions.Pierre Nora inaugurates this final volume by acknowledging thatthe whole project of Realms of Memory is oriented around symbols, claiming "only a symbolic history can restore to France the unity and dynamism not recognized by either the man in the street or the academic historian." He goes on to distinguish between two very different types of symbols - imposed and constructed. Imposed symbols may be official state emblems like the tricolor flag or 'La Marsaillaise', or may be monuments like the Eiffel Tower - symbols imbued with a sense of history. COnstructes symbols are produced over the passage of time, by human effort, and by history itself.They include figures such as Joan d'Arc, Descartes, and the Gallic cock.Past I, Emblems, traces the development of four major national symbols from the time of the Revolution: the tricolor flag, the national anthem (La Marsaillaise), the motto Liberty, Equality, Fraternity" and Bastille Day. Far from having fixed identities, these representations of the French nations are shown to have undergone transformations. As French republics rose and regimes changed, the emblems of the French state - and the meanings accosiated with them - were also altered.Part II, Major Sites, focuses on those cities and structures that act as beacons of France to both Frenchman and foreigner. These essays range from the prehistory paintings in Lascaux - that cave which, though not originally French in any sense, has become the very symbol of France's immemorial national memory - to Verdun, the site of the terrible World War I battle, now a symbol of the nation's heaviest sacrifice for the "salvation of the fatehrland" and the most powerful image of French national unity.Identifications, the final section, explores the ways in which the French think of themselves. From the cock - that "rustic and quintessentially Gallic bird" - to the figures of Joan of Arc and Descartes, to the nation's twin hearts - Paris and the French language - the memory of the French people is explored.This final installment of Realms of Memory provides a major contribution not only to study the French nation and culture, but also to the study of symbols as cultural phenomena, offering, as Nora observes, "the possibility of revelation."