e shtunë, 10 shkurt 2007

Salons (2)

Maklumat menarik di bawah ini, antaranya: Because of the salons, the French tradition, alone among national traditions, has treated conversation as a fine art. Conversely, the conversational style—the blend of wit, elegance, and oral brilliance first concocted in the salons—has often been considered the essence of the French style.

Rujuk: Sumber asal (French literature companion)

[For artistic Salone see Art Criticism.] The literary salon was not invented in 17th-c. France. A tradition of such gatherings had existed in Renaissance France and Italy. However, in Paris between 1610 and 1650 this tradition was redefined. The new assemblies multiplied and became so influential that, until shortly after the Revolution, the salons rivalled the official literary society, the Académie Française, for control over the Republic of Letters.

The first true salon was created at the Hôtel de Rambouillet by the woman known as ‘la divine Arthénice’. The marquise de Rambouillet received her guests lying in bed; she seated them in the ruelle, the space between the bed and the wall. This term came to designate any salon assembly. (Salons were also referred to by the day of the week on which they met; ‘the Saturday’, for example, meant the weekly meeting presided over by Madeleine de Scudéry.) In the marquise's bedroom, the chambre bleue, a group whose membership remained remarkably stable over long periods of time met regularly to discuss matters of literary and social taste. The Hôtel de Rambouillet is often credited with having invented the obsession with social refinement that became associated with the French court only much later, under Louis XIV. The original ruelle also gave birth to a literary style, preciosity, and to a type of literary woman, the précieuse, the principal model for women writers of the ancien régime.

The chambre bleue defined the French salon tradition in two important ways. First, these assemblies were always presided over by women, providing a rare example of a literary sphere under female control. Secondly, they gave conversation extraordinary new prominence. Because of the salons, the French tradition, alone among national traditions, has treated conversation as a fine art. Conversely, the conversational style—the blend of wit, elegance, and oral brilliance first concocted in the salons—has often been considered the essence of the French style. Historians have stressed that the salons were intrinsic to the definition and diffusion of French culture during what is often considered its golden age. Some contend that, without them, the period 1650-1789 would never have witnessed such glory. However, the salons' relation to French culture was always double: they were also influential critics of the society they nurtured and perfected.

The first wave of salon activity was abruptly ended by the outbreak of the Fronde. During the Fronde, many noted salon figures became politically prominent by leading the opposition to the monarchy. After the uprising had been crushed the salons reopened and entered their most brilliant period, the decade before the reign of classicism, during which France seemed totally captivated by the style they were promoting. But appearances were deceiving, for the salons would never again be the same: political agitation had become part of their mission. Not all salons were overtly political; in some cases the political content of their agitation is easily overlooked. However, their apparently parochial concerns often produced more significant results than did the traditional forms of opposition to France's social structure under the absolute monarchy.

Influential contemporary thinkers, notably Vauban, promoted, to little avail, the notion that French society should be revitalized by introducing the notion of a meritocracy. The salons made possible the only important modifications in this direction. From the beginning, salon debate took up what are thought of today as women's issues—from a woman's right to refuse marriage to her freedom to limit the number of children she bore. In particular, salon women, although they were almost always aristocrats, nevertheless consistently maintained that merit rather than birth should determine the choice of a husband. When important numbers of them put this belief into practice, members of the bourgeoisie gained legitimate entry into the aristocracy and a new type of self-made noble was created. The salons were widely attacked for having thus undermined social purity.

After the Fronde the salon tradition continued uninterrupted until the Revolution. Throughout its existence it remained remarkably faithful to the blend of wit and subversion created by the early salon women. This continuity is logical: the salons that functioned until the end of the 17th c. were organized by women, notably Sablé and La Sablière, who had come of intellectual age in the original assemblies. By the time they disappeared, those who would define the 18th c. salon tradition, in particular Lambert and Tencin, had already begun to hold court—and their inheritors, such as Du Deffande waiting in the wings.

Following the model of the 17th-c. Cartesian salons, certain 18th-c. assemblies were dominated by philosophical discussion; others were principally concerned with scientific debate, a phenomenon already present in some ruelles. However, in the age of Enlightenment all debate—whether political, philosophical, or scientific—became increasingly bold, as the philosophes who frequented salons, and in particular Geoffrin's assembly, made their intellectual activity virtually synonymous with political ferment. The assemblies presided over by Lespinasse and Suzanne Necker Curchod are typical of the final incarnation of true French salons, in which the assemblies became centres of political unrest.

The salons declined in importance once the Revolution had eliminated the ancien régime, with which they had consistently entertained a relation simultaneously complicitous and subversive. Literary assemblies continued to function in the 19th and 20th c., but even their founders, Sophie Gay for example, admitted that they never recreated the flavour of their pre-Revolutionary forerunners. In particular, women, even those who led salons, played secondary roles in post-Revolutionary assemblies: they no longer dictated the essence of French style.

Commentators have too often based their eulogies as well as their mockeries on the superficial aspects of salon activity such as linguistic affectation or fashion fads. However, unless we also remember how dramatically the salons brought about political, social, and literary change, we will never understand why powerful men found them threatening, or why powerful women first kept them going and then tried for generations to bring them back to life. [See Feminism; Women Writers.]

[Joan Dejean]

R. Picard, Les Salons littéraires et la société française (1943)
C. Lougee, Le Paradis des Femmes: Women, Salons, and Social Stratification in 17th-Century France (1976)

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