Lettres de cachet and Eighteenth Century Crime

Lettres de cachet and Eighteenth Century Crime

I am here in Paris for the summer, assisting Professor Graham with her research on debauchery in eighteenth century France. She is writing a book, Debauchery and Enlightenment in Eighteenth Century France, that looks at debauchery from a variety of different angles. As her assistant last summer, I read eighteenth century books on women’s physiology, treatises about women and morality, biographies of Louis XV’s mistresses, and legal texts, all of which offered different perspectives on moral crime. This summer, I am working at the Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal in Paris, to learn more about debauchery from lettres de cachet. Lettres de cachet were letters signed by the king that allowed a suspect to be imprisoned without any legal process. Farge & Foucault explain how the system of lettres de cachet served as a way to avoid the judicial system, which was inefficient and impossible. They also argue that this system worked to the advantage of the families, the king, and the police: family honor was maintained, as was public order. The two were closely related. (By the end of the eighteenth century, lettres de cachet were associated with oppression, tyranny, and arbitrary monarchal rule). In Le désordre des familles, Farge & Foucault describe their study of lettres de cachet at the Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal in the early 1980s. “We were […] struck by the fact that, in many cases, these demands were made about private family matters: small conflicts between parents and children, domestic discord, misconduct of one of the spouses, disorder of a boy or girl. […] despite the incomplete character of these archives, we often found, around a demand...
Memory, Monuments, and Urban Space: Alliyah Allen ’18 on Monument Lab

Memory, Monuments, and Urban Space: Alliyah Allen ’18 on Monument Lab

This semester, Alliyah Allen ’18 is working with Writing Fellow Paul Farber on Monument Lab: Creative Speculations for Philadelphia, a massive public art and urban research project he co-curated that is taking over Philadelphia’s City Hall starting May 15th.  Through a series of art installations, public events, and community-sourced maps, the project asks a central guiding question: What is the appropriate monument for the current city of Philadelphia? Supported by the Hurford Center’s Tuttle Fund for the Development of Visual Culture across the Curriculum, Alliyah is one of a number of Haverford students, staff, and faculty working on the project.  Below, she shares her thoughts on Monument Lab, its timeliness within current national discourse on race, class, and the usages of public space, and how her work fits into her larger academic projects at Haverford. HCAH: How did you become interested in monuments and involved in the project? What is your role in Monument Lab? ALLIYAH ALLEN ’18: Last semester I took Professor Paul Farber’s Memory, Monuments, and Urban Space class for my Haverford Writing Seminar, and since then my perspective on the relationship between public art, monuments, and history has shifted drastically. I am from Newark, New Jersey and have been immersed in urban culture for the majority of my life. Prior to my work in this course and participation in the lab, I didn’t have much of an appreciation for public art or monuments. The deterioration and lack of resources had given me the impression that success was not welcomed in my community and that history could not be made there. However, taking this course and my participation in the Monument...
Ze comiques are ‘ard to translet

Ze comiques are ‘ard to translet

As everyone is moving back in to Haverford and gearing up for a new year, it is pretty weird to see it all happening from far, far away, in my little world of panels and speech balloons in Paris. Despite how far away I am, though, I’ve been doing a lot of work recently with English an American publications–and I think I would have to say that the work I’ve been doing in English has been more difficult in most ways than the work I’ve done this summer in French. I’ll start by talking about that. Science fiction is a weird genre. And it adds a whole new level of weirdness when you read it in another language. There’s nothing like translation to really force you to think about the words that are on the page you’re reading–you can’t just let the meaning of each sentence wash over you and past you, allowing yourself to focus on the coherent whole, the way you do when you read. (At least when you’re reading for your own enjoyment). And when you really dig into science fiction words, you sometimes have to laugh when thinking about how they were come up with. For instance, in the Star Wars universe there is a rubbery, tentacled species of alien called the “Mon Calamari” from the planet Dac. If you were to put that into a French Star Wars production without any attempt at transforming it, the species name is essentially “My Squid”–or “My Squiddy” if you want to get picky–but they’re both equally silly. And as soon as you realize that, you can just...
The Garden of the Afterlife

The Garden of the Afterlife

Those poor unfortunate souls among you who read my last post may remember that I’m working as a research assistant for Professor Jamel Velji, a religionist who specializes in the apocalypse. Among my projects for the summer has been helping Prof. Velji design a new course called Mahdis and their Movements about Muslim messianic movements and helping him edit his existing course called The End of the World as We Know It to include a unit on Ancient Egyptian pseudo-apocalyptic. Between the two subjects I have noticed an interesting connection: the afterlife is visualized on earth as a garden. The image above is a photograph that Prof. Velji took in the British Museum in London; it comes from the tomb of the 18th-Dynasty (ca. 1350 BCE) scribe Nebamun in Thebes, Egypt. The descriptive plaque in the British Museum refers to this tomb painting as “Nebamun’s garden of the west”, explaining that “Nebamun’s garden in the afterlife is like the earthly gardens of the wealthy in ancient Egypt.” The ancient Egyptian conception of time was not linear but cyclical, based on the cycle of the sun: in the morning the sun-god Re is born in the east, in the evening he dies in the west, and overnight he returns underground to be reborn in the east. For this reason the Egyptians saw burials as actually moving closer to the sun: the deeper and darker a burial chamber, the closer it would be to Re during his nighttime travels. What this also meant was that the west, being the site of Re’s daily (re)death, was also the appropriate burial place for Egyptians.   The map above (sorry it’s...
Translating Early-Modern Astrology

Translating Early-Modern Astrology

Hello friends! My name is James Truitt, and this summer I’m working with professor of history Darin Hayton through the Hurford Center’s Student Research Assistantship program. My work centers around translating a 14th century Latin text on astrometeorology, Firmin de Beauval’s Handbook of Changes in the Weather (available, conveniently enough, through Google Books). What’s astrometeorology, you ask? Well, people have been looking at the sky for a long time to figure out future weather conditions—after all, who wants to get caught in a thunderstorm unprepared? What might come as a surprise is the parts of the sky they’ve paid attention to—astrometeorology used the stars (well, mostly the planets) to predict future weather. The practice goes back to the Ancient Greeks, and was situated in the wider field of astrological knowledge, the complexities of which I’ve been familiarizing myself with in order to make sense of the text.   This brings us to my role in the project—translator. I have a long-standing fascination with translation, and Firmin’s Handbook gives me an excellent opportunity to explore all sorts of questions and issues about the act of rendering a text into another language. In particular, most of the translation I’ve done previously has been of literary texts, so working with something as technical as Firmin is giving me a good deal of new things to consider. That’s all for now, but you can expect another post from me before the summer’s out. Until...
What Do Professors Do All Day?

What Do Professors Do All Day?

By now more than a few of my professors have told me that ultimately I myself will be an academic; such a future is evidently inevitable. In order best to embrace my destiny, I’m spending the summer working as a Summer Research Assistant for Visiting Assistant Professor of Religion Jamel Velji, who specializes in Islamic apocalyptic. As such, I’m pretending to be a professor, getting a behind-the-scenes look at what takes up Prof. Velji’s time outside of the 6 hours a week spent teaching classes. So, what do professors do outside of the classroom? 1. They read. Above we see the cover to a recent major publication in the field of Islamic Studies, Messianic Beliefs & Imperial Politics in Medieval Islam: The ‘Abbasid Caliphate in the Early Ninth Century by Hayrettin Yucesoy. This is just one of many texts I’ve read (or, more accurately, skimmed) in order to determine if it would be appropriate reading for a 300-level seminar that professor Velji will be teaching next semester called Mahdis and their Movements. The Encyclopaedia of Islam defines “al-Mahdi” (which in English is “the rightly guided one”) as “the restorer of religion and justice who, according to a widely held Muslim belief, will rule before the end of the world”; the course centers on a number of historical personages who have claimed or applied the title of Mahdi. The course will have six case studies: the ‘Abbasid movement (Iraq and surrounding area, mid-8th century CE), the Fatimid movement (Egypt, early 10th-century), the Almohad movement (Morocco and Spain, early 12th century), Ibn al-Arabi (not himself a Mahdi claimant, but a prominent Sufi writer who used a lot of messianic imagery, 12th-13th centuries), the...