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Joan of Arc: The Image of Female Heroism by…
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Joan of Arc: The Image of Female Heroism

by Marina Warner

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An extraordinary academic investigation - part-biography, part-deconstruction - of the French saint Joan of Arc.

Marina Warner finds the real girl behind the symbolism - and then concentrates on the way her life and death have been used through the years in any number of ways. ( )
  Chris_V | Jun 8, 2009 |
http://nhw.livejournal.com/788752.html

I'm not really a Francophile, but I am a lapsed medievalist, and Marina Warner's meticulous sifting of fact from fiction in the first two-thirds of the book dealing with the actual career of Joan of Arc (not, as she points out, a name ever used by La Pucelle herself) is a beautiful example of how you should take your one major primary source (the transcript of Joan's trial) and test it against all the other available contextual evidence.

Two points in particular stood out for me. First, Joan's entire career was very short - from March 1429 to her execution in May 1431 - and of course the last year of Joan's short life was spent in captivity. Second, something very special obviously did take place when she first encountered the Dauphin, the future Charles VII, at Chinon in March 1429: she was unable to describe the experience clearly, and nobody else seems to have left a record, but the consequences are quite clear - some kind of mystical event was experienced by both her and Charles, and by enough of his courtiers to establish the legend, but we will never know exactly what they thought had happened.

Warner explores Joan's significance as a woman, a hero, a warrior, a prophet, digging deep into late medieval ideas of religion, leadership and gender. In the last third of the book she goes on to look at Joan's influence after her death, on literature, French politics, the church's claims to authority, and concepts of sexuality in Western civilisation. It feels comprehensive, and I found it fascinating. ( )
3 vote nwhyte | Dec 31, 2006 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0520224647, Paperback)

Joan has a unique role in Western imagination--she is one of the few true female heroes. Marina Warner uses her superb historical and literary skills to move beyond conventional biography and to capture the essence of Joan of Arc, both as she lived in her own time and as she has "grown" in the human imagination over the five centuries since her death. She has examined the court documents from Joan of Arc's 1431 Inquisition trial for heresy and woven the facts together with an analysis of the histories, biographies, plays, and paintings and sculptures that have appeared over time to honor this heroine and symbol of France's nationhood. Warner shows how the few facts that are known about the woman Joan have been shaped to suit the aims of those who have chosen her as their hero. The book places Joan in the context of the mythology of the female hero and takes note of her historical antecedents, both pagan and Christian and the role she has played up to the present as the embodiment of an ideal, whether as Amazon, saint, child of nature, or personification of virtue.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:13 -0400)

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