The Heroic Epic - and Its Antidote

Neon, Pere. L'Amazone FrancoiseDuring the 16th and 17th centuries, the epic poem flourished as a medium to display patriotism,Aurélia, ou Orléans Délivré religious conviction, and classical scholarship.

Among other admirers of Joan,the French scholar Jean Chapelain published a monumental biography in verse, La Pvcelle, ov La France Deliverée (below). It is generally accounted mediocre, but it inspired a far more masterful work. When Voltaire read this poem he declared that the French language was not suitable for the heroic epic - and began work on his mock heroic Pucelle.

M. Chapelain. La Pvcelle, ov La France DeliveréeM. Chapelain. La Pvcelle, ov La France DeliveréeM. Chapelain. La Pvcelle, ov La France Deliverée 

Voltaire takes the appellation 'the Maid' literally, Voltaire - John Chandosand turns the historical contest between the French and the English into a battle for Joan of Arc's virginity, upon which the fate of the war depends. In a work which focuses on the sexual exploits and desires of the characters (ascribed without regard to historical fact) the Maid is the subject of a series of attempted rapes and seductions, and in fact becomes the loverVoltaire - the donkeyof the Count Dunois. It is difficult not to see in the risqué engravings, attributed to Henri Gravelot, a reflection of the 'heroic' nudity in the edition of Chapelain. In the illustration shown at right, Joan has been defeated in battle by John Chandos; he intends to rape her, but he will be denied this 'victory' when St. Denis makes him impotent. In the image at the left, she escapes the attentions of her heaven-sent winged donkey.


Early Historians
Later Biographies
The Heroic Epic
At the Fringe
Contemporary Accounts Biographies      On the Stage Selling It The Company She Keeps The Call to Arms Joan in Politics St. Joan

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