source : http://www.britannica.com/
Primary Contributors: Bernard S. Bachrach, François Bernard, T.N. Bisson, Jean F.P. Blondel, John Frederick Drinkwater, Thomas Henry Elkins, John E. Flower, Gabriel Fournier, Patrice Louis-René Higonnet, Jeremy David Popkin, J.H. Shennan, John N. Tuppen, Eugen Weber, Isser Woloch, Gordon Wright
EXTRAITS DE L’ARTICLE « FRANCE »
France, officially French Republic, French France or République Française, country of northwestern Europe. Historically and culturally among the most important nations in the Western world, France has also played a highly significant role in international affairs, with former colonies in every corner of the globe. Bounded by the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, the Alps and the Pyrenees, France has long provided a geographic, economic, and linguistic bridge joining northern and southern Europe. It is Europe’s most important agricultural producer and one of the world’s leading industrial powers.
France is among the globe’s oldest nations, the product of an alliance of duchies and principalities under a single ruler in the Middle Ages. Today, as in that era, central authority is invested in the state, even though a measure of autonomy has been granted to the country’s 22 régions in recent decades. The French people look to the state as the primary guardian of liberty, and the state in turn provides a generous program of amenities for its citizens, from free education to health care and pension plans. Even so, this centralist tendency is often at odds with another long-standing theme of the French nation: the insistence on the supremacy of the individual. On this matter historian Jules Michelet remarked, “England is an empire, Germany is a nation, a race, France is a person.” Statesman Charles de Gaulle, too, famously complained, “Only peril can bring the French together. One can’t impose unity out of the blue on a country that has 265 kinds of cheese.”
This tendency toward individualism joins with a pluralist outlook and a great interest in the larger world. Even though its imperialist stage was driven by the impulse to civilize that world according to French standards (la mission civilisatrice), the French still note approvingly the words of writer Gustave Flaubert:
I am no more modern than I am ancient, no more French than Chinese; and the idea of la patrie, the fatherland—that is, the obligation to live on a bit of earth coloured red or blue on a map, and to detest the other bits coloured green or black—has always seemed to me narrow, restricted, and ferociously stupid.
At once universal and particular, French culture has spread far and greatly influenced the development of art and science, particularly anthropology, philosophy, and sociology.
France has also been influential in government and civil affairs, giving the world important democratic ideals in the age of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution and inspiring the growth of reformist and even revolutionary movements for generations. The present Fifth Republic has, however, enjoyed notable stability since its promulgation on September 28, 1958, marked by a tremendous growth in private initiative and the rise of centrist politics. Although France has engaged in long-running disputes with other European powers (and, from time to time, with the United States, its longtime ally), it emerged as a leading member in the European Union (EU) and its predecessors. From 1966 to 1995 France did not participate in the integrated military structure of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), retaining full control over its own air, ground, and naval forces; beginning in 1995, however, France was represented on the NATO Military Committee, and in 2009 French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced that the country would rejoin the organization’s military command. As one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council—together with the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, and China—France has the right to veto decisions put to the council.
The capital and by far the most important city of France is Paris, one of the world’s preeminent cultural and commercial centres. A majestic city known as the ville lumière, or “city of light,” Paris has often been remade, most famously in the mid-19th century under the command of Georges-Eugène, Baron Haussman, who was committed to Napoleon III’s vision of a modern city free of the choleric swamps and congested alleys of old, with broad avenues and a regular plan. Paris is now a sprawling metropolis, one of Europe’s largest conurbations, but its historic heart can still be traversed in an evening’s walk. Confident that their city stood at the very centre of the world, Parisians were once given to referring to their country as having two parts, Paris and le désert, the wasteland beyond it. Metropolitan Paris has now extended far beyond its ancient suburbs into the countryside, however, and nearly every French town and village now numbers a retiree or two driven from the city by the high cost of living, so that, in a sense, Paris has come to embrace the desert and the desert Paris.
Among France’s other major cities are Lyon, located along an ancient Rhône valley trade route linking the North Sea and the Mediterranean; Marseille, a multiethnic port on the Mediterranean founded as an entrepôt for Greek and Carthaginian traders in the 6th century bc; Nantes, an industrial centre and deepwater harbour along the Atlantic coast; and Bordeaux, located in southwestern France along the Garonne River.
For much of its history, France has played a central role in European culture. With the advent of colonialism and global trade, France reached a worldwide market, and French artistic, culinary, and sartorial styles influenced the high and popular cultures of nations around the globe. Today French customs, styles, and theories remain an influential export, as well as a point of great national pride, even as French intellectuals worry that the rise of globalism has prompted, in the words of the historian Pierre Nora, “the rapid disappearance of our national memory.”
The arts : Literature
French literature has a long and rich history. Traditionally it is held to have begun in 842 with the Oath of Strasbourg, a political pact between Louis the German and Charles the Bald, the text of which survives in Old French. The Middle Ages are noted in particular for epic poems such as La Chanson de Roland (c. 1100; The Song of Roland), the Arthurian romances of Chrétien de Troyes, and lyric poetry expressing romantic love. In the 16th century the Renaissance flourished, and figures such as the poet Pierre de Ronsard, the satirist and humorist François Rabelais, and the quintessential essayist Michel de Montaigne, were to become internationally acknowledged. French Neoclassical drama reached its apotheosis during the next hundred years in the tragedies of Pierre Corneille and Jean Racine. During the same period, Molière displayed his vast and varied talents in the theatre, particularly as a writer of comedies; Jean de La Fontaine produced moralistic verse in his Fables; and Madame de La Fayette created the classic La Princesse de Clèves (1678), generally considered the first French psychological novel.
Voltaire, Denis Diderot, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau dominated the 18th century, especially with their philosophical writings, though they made major contributions to all genres, and Voltaire’s novel Candide (1759) is notable for its literary quality and distillation of Enlightenment ideals. Other authors of the period include playwright Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, best known for works such as Le Mariage de Figaro (1784; The Marriage of Figaro), and Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, remembered for his epistolary novel Les Liaisons dangereuses (1782; Dangerous Acquaintances). The 19th century witnessed the emergence of a series of writers who substantially influenced the development of literature worldwide, including the novelists Honoré de Balzac, Stendhal, Gustave Flaubert, and Émile Zola along with the poets Charles Baudelaire, Stéphane Mallarmé, and Arthur Rimbaud. Added to these was the Romantic writer Victor Hugo, whose creative energy expressed itself in all literary forms, as well as in painting.
French literature in the 20th century both carried on the earlier traditions and transformed them. While the complexity of French poetry continued in the work of Paul Valéry, Guillaume Apollinaire, Paul Claudel (also a major dramatist), Saint-John Perse, Paul Éluard, Louis Aragon, René Char, and Yves Bonnefoy, the art of the novel was given new direction by Marcel Proust, in À la recherche du temps perdu (1913–27; Remembrance of Things Past). The first half of the century also produced such notable writers as André Gide, François Mauriac, André Malraux, Albert Camus, and Jean-Paul Sartre, the last arguably the chief exponent of existentialist philosophy. Their work was followed in the 1950s by the nouveau roman (“new novel”) and by the emergence of writers such as Alain Robbe-Grillet, Nathalie Sarraute, Michel Butor, Claude Mauriac, Marguerite Duras, and Claude Simon, whose works have entered the canon of literature. Since the 1970s Michel Tournier, Patrick Modiano, Erik Orsenna, and Georges Perec have become leading novelists; feminist writers, including Hélène Cixous, Annie Leclerc, Jeanne Champion, and Marie Cardinal, have also made significant contributions. French authors have won a number of Nobel Prizes for Literature.
The literature of the 20th century was notable for its openness to nonnative writers: the Irish writer Samuel Beckett, for instance, the Czech expatriate Milan Kundera, the Russian emigrant Andreï Makine, and Chinese exile Gao Xingjian have all produced major works in French. Georges Simenon and Marguerite Yourcenar, both born in Belgium in 1903, were considered French writers, though they often lived outside France.
The works of French playwrights have enjoyed international acclaim for centuries, from the 17th-century comic theatre of Molière to the 19th-century cabaret productions known as Grand Guignol. In theatre in the 20th and 21st centuries three important currents can be discerned. Traditional playwriting was carried on largely by Jean Anouilh, Claudel, Jean Giraudoux, Henry de Montherlant, and Camus, but experimentation with both form and content also developed. Before World War II, Jean Cocteau in particular made his mark (as did to a lesser degree Claudel), but innovation came with Fernando Arrabal, Arthur Adamov, Beckett, Jean Genet, and the Romanian exile Eugène Ionesco. Since the 1950s producers have also made an important contribution to theatre; Roger Planchon, Jean-Louis Barrault, Peter Brook, Marcel Maréchal, and Ariane Mnouchkine in particular have shared in both creating new works and revitalizing traditional ones.
Philosophy and criticism have always played a central part in French intellectual and cultural life. The Surrealist movement, led by André Breton, among others, flourished in the 1920s and ’30s. Existentialism in both Christian and atheist forms was a powerful force in the mid-20th century and was championed by Sartre, Étienne Gilson, Gabriel Marcel, and Camus (though he rejected the label). More broadly, Roman Catholicism and Marxism in orthodox or revised forms have influenced a large number of creative writers, including the Roman Catholic Georges Bernanos and Sartre, who was a Marxist of a sort. Since the 1950s, new criticism, which began with structuralism—itself largely inspired by the anthropological work of Claude Lévi-Strauss in Mythologiques, 4 vol. (1964–71), and Tristes Tropiques (1955)—has challenged the monopoly of the historical approach to works of art and especially literature. Not limited to literary criticism, structuralism was an important component of philosophy among proponents such as Louis Althusser. The most popular expression of this approach was perhaps the work of Roland Barthes, including Mythologies (1957), but his work fragmented into various branches—linguistic, genetic, psychobiographical, sociocultural—each with its exponents and disciples increasingly embroiled in academic, and often abstruse, debate. Following on the heels of structuralism, poststructuralism was associated with such figures as Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Jacques Lacan, Julia Kristeva, Giles Deleuze, Hélène Cixous, Luce Irigaray, and Jean-François Lyotard. Other philosophers of recent note include André Glucksmann, Bernard Henri-Lévy, and Michel Serres. (For further discussion, see French literature.)
The fine arts
French traditions in the fine arts are deep and rich, and painting, sculpture, music, dance, architecture, photography, and film all flourish under state support.
Painting and sculpture
In painting there was a long tradition from the Middle Ages and Renaissance that, while perhaps not matching those of Italy or the Low Countries, produced a number of religious subjects and court portraits. By the 17th century, paintings of peasants by Louis Le Nain, of allegories and Classical myths by Nicolas Poussin, and of formally pastoral scenes by Claude Lorrain began to give French art its own characteristics.
Within the next hundred years, styles became even more wide-ranging: mildly erotic works by François Boucher and Jean-Honoré Fragonard; enigmatic scenes such as Pierrot, or Gilles (c. 1718–19), by Antoine Watteau; interiors by Jean-Siméon Chardin that were often tinged with violence, as in La Raie (c. 1725–26; “The Ray”); emotive portraits by Jean-Baptiste Greuze; and rigorous Neoclassical works by Jacques-Louis David.
Much as the Académie Franƈaise regulated literature, painting up to this time was subject to rules and conventions established by the Academy of Fine Arts. In the 19th century some artists, notably J.-A.-D. Ingres, followed these rules. Others reacted against academic conventions, making Paris, as the century progressed, a centre of the Western avant-garde. Beginning in the 1820s, the bold eroticism and “Orientalism” of the works of Romantic painter Eugène Delacroix angered the academy, while at midcentury the gritty Realism of the art of Gustave Courbet and Honoré Daumier was viewed as scandalous.
Perhaps the greatest break from academic conventions came about through the Impressionists, who, inspired in part by the daring work of Édouard Manet, brought on a revolution in painting beginning in the late 1860s. Some artists from this movement whose work became internationally celebrated include Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Alfred Sisley, and Edgar Degas. Important Post-Impressionists include Paul Cézanne, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Paul Gauguin, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Georges Seurat.
French sculpture progressed from the straight-lined Romanesque style through various periods to reach its height in the work of Auguste Rodin, who was a contemporary of the Impressionists and whose sculpture reflected Impressionist principles. Another from this time, Aristide Maillol, produced figures in a more Classical style.
Pablo Picasso, one of the most influential forces in 20th-century art, was born in Spain but spent most of his artistic life in France. His oeuvre encompasses several genres, including sculpture, but he is best known for the Cubist paintings he created together with French artist Georges Braque at the beginning of the century. One of Picasso’s greatest rivals was French painter Henri Matisse, whose lyrical work, like Picasso’s, spanned the first half of the century. In the period between the World Wars, Paris remained a major centre of avant-garde activity, and branches of prominent international movements such as Dada and Surrealism were active there.
By midcentury, however, Paris’s dominance waned, and the focus of contemporary art shifted to New York City. Prominent artists working in France have included Jean Dubuffet, Yves Klein, Swiss-born Jean Tinguely, Hungarian-born Victor Vasarely, Niki de Saint-Phalle, Bulgarian-born Christo, Daniel Buren, and César.
Major art exhibits are held regularly, mainly in Paris, and training for aspiring artists is provided not only at the prestigious École des Beaux-Arts (“School of Fine Arts”) in Paris but also at a number of provincial colleges. Courses for art historians and restorators are available at the School of the Louvre. Building on their country’s rich history as a leader in furniture design and cabinetry, French craftsmen of all sorts today study at the National Advanced School of Decorative Arts and other institutions. (For further discussion, see painting, Western; and sculpture, Western.)
The growth of classical music parallels that of painting. Despite work from earlier periods by Louis Couperin, Jean-Philippe Rameau, and Jean-Baptiste Lully, for example, French music gained a broad international following only in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Such composers as Hector Berlioz, Camille Saint-Saëns, Maurice Ravel, Claude Debussy, and the Polish-born Frédéric Chopin created a distinctively French style, further developed in the 20th century by composers such as Pierre Boulez, Darius Milhaud, and Erik Satie. In the late 20th century much experimentation occurred with electronic music and acoustics. The Institute for Experimentation and Research in Music and Acoustics (Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique), in Paris, remains devoted to musical innovation. A new generation of French musicians includes the pianists Hélène Mercier and Brigitte Engerer.
Training for the musical profession remains traditional. Local conservatoires throughout the country provide basic grounding; some provincial schools—at Lyon and Strasbourg, for example—offer more advanced work, but young people with talent aim for the National Conservatory of Music in Paris, where Nadia Boulanger taught. Since World War II, Paris has hosted internationally famous conductors, such as Herbert von Karajan and Daniel Barenboim, who have made contributions in revitalizing an interest in classical music. Major visiting orchestras perform at the Châtelet Theatre or the Pleyel Concert Hall, and concerts are given by smaller groups in many of the churches. There is a network of provincial orchestras.
Although interest in classical music has grown at the amateur level, it is practiced by a relatively small number. The young tend to be preoccupied with popular music, especially that imported from the United States and the United Kingdom. The tradition of the French chanson, the romantic French ballad, has continued, however, following such legendary stylists as Juliette Gréco, Edith Piaf, Belgian-born Jacques Brel, Charles Aznavour, and Georges Brassens. Moreover, France has produced rock performers such as Johnny Hallyday and the group Téléphone, as well as chanteuses of the 1960s such as Franƈoise Hardy, known for pop music called yé-yé (“yeah-yeah”). Other well-known artists of recent years include Julien Clerc, Jean-Jacques Goldman, and Renaud. However, all have been considerably more popular nationally than internationally.
The Paris Opéra, established in 1669, prospered under the efforts of Lully, Rameau, Christoph Gluck, Berlioz, Georges Bizet, and Francis Poulenc. France was known for the traditions of opéra comique and grand opera, among others. (For further discussion, see music, Western.)
France is famous for developing ballet. In 1581 the Ballet comique de la reine was performed at the French court of Catherine de Médicis. Because it fused the elements of music, dance, plot, and design into a dramatic whole, it is considered the first ballet. The ballet comique influenced the development of the 17th-century ballet de cour (court ballet), an extravagant form of court entertainment.
In 1661 Louis XIV established the Académie Royale de Danse (now the Paris Opéra Ballet); the company dominated European theatrical dance of the 18th and early 19th centuries. Pierre Beauchamp, the company’s first director, codified the five basic ballet positions. Extending the range of dance steps were virtuosos such as Gaétan Vestris and his son Auguste Vestris and also Marie Camargo, whose rival Marie Sallé was known for her expressive style.
In his revolutionary treatise, Lettres sur la danse et sur les ballets (1760), Jean-Georges Noverre brought about major reforms in ballet production, stressing the importance of dramatic motivation, which he called ballet d’action, and decrying overemphasis on technical virtuosity. In 1832 the Paris Opéra Ballet initiated the era of Romantic ballet by presenting Italian Filippo Taglioni’s La Sylphide. Jean Coralli was the Opéra’s ballet master at the time, and the company’s dancers of this period included Jules Perrot and Arthur Saint-Léon.
In the 20th century ballet was rejuvenated under the leadership of Russian impresario Sergey Diaghilev, who founded the avant-garde Ballets Russes in Paris in 1909. For the next two decades it was the leading ballet company in the West. The original company was choreographed by Michel Fokine. Elsewhere in Paris, Serge Lifar, the Russian-born ballet master of the Paris Opéra, reestablished its reputation as a premier ballet troupe.
Dance entertainments of a lighter kind also were developed in France. In 19th-century Paris the all-female cancan became the rage. After 1844 it became a feature of music halls, revues, and operetta. (For further discussion, see ballet.)
With a rich and varied architectural heritage (which helped to spawn, among other styles, Gothic, Beaux Arts, and Art Deco) and an organized and competitive program of study, France has shown itself to be open to a variety of styles and innovations. For example, Le Corbusier, much of whose work can be found in France, was Swiss. The development of architecture has also been sustained by the central government’s penchant for grands projets, or great projects. The country, however, has not produced as many designers of international repute in recent years as have other Western nations. Major achievements such as the Pompidou Centre, the pyramid entrance to the Louvre, and the Grand Arch have resulted from plans submitted in open competition by foreign architects. Recent architects of acclaim, of French origin or working in France, have included Jean Nouvel, Dominique Perrault, Adrien Fainsilber, Paul Andreu, Swiss-born Bernard Tschumi, and Catalonian Ricardo Boffil of Spain. Among important contemporary designers are Andrée Putman and Philippe Starck. (For further discussion, see architecture, Western.)
Jacques Daguerre, one of the recognized founders of modern photography in the early 19th century, began the evolution of an art form that has flourished in France. In the 20th century the work of such photographers as Eugène Atget, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and Robert Doisneau ensured that the art had a dimension beyond journalistic and commercial purposes, which was apparent in the installation art of later figures such as Christian Boltanski. In 1969 an annual festival was established at Arles, and in 1976 a national museum was created. The French popularization of photography through posters and postcards was one of the most remarkable cultural events of the late 20th century. (For further discussion, see photography, history of.)
French cinema has occupied an important place in national culture for more than a hundred years. August and Louis Lumière invented a motion-picture technology in the late 19th century, and Alice Guy-Blaché and others were industry pioneers. In the 1920s French film became famous for its poetic realist mode, exemplified by the grand historical epics of Abel Gance and the work in the 1930s and ’40s of Marcel Pagnol and others. A generation later the nouvelle vague, or New Wave, produced directors such as Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut, who “wrote” with the camera as if, in critic André Bazin’s words, it were a caméra-stylo (“camera-pen”). This shift was accompanied by an “intellectualization” of the cinema reflected in the influential review Cahiers du cinéma, in the establishment of several schools in Paris and the provinces where film could be studied, and in the founding of film museums such as the Cinémathèque (“Film Library”) in Paris.
Other directors of international stature include Jean Renoir, Jacques Tati, Jean-Pierre Melville, Alain Resnais, Eric Rohmer, Robert Bresson, and Louis Malle. They exemplified the auteur theory that a director could so control a film that his or her direction approximated authorship. Filmmakers such as Agnès Varda, Claude Chabrol, Jacques Demy, Bertrand Tavernier, and Claude Bérri, as well as Polish-born Krzystof Kieslowski, extended these traditions to the end of the century.
The leading film stars of the 20th century ranged from Fernandel, Maurice Chevalier, and Arletty to Brigitte Bardot, Gérard Depardieu, and Catherine Deneuve. One of the world’s premier film festivals is held annually at Cannes, where the Palme d’Or is awarded to the best motion picture—most, in recent years, have come from outside France, a source of consternation to French film devotees. As in television, the French film industry faces competition from the United States and the United Kingdom. This led the government in the early 1990s to elicit the support of the European Commission to protect its native film industry. (For further discussion, see motion picture, history of.)