Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
This dissertation examines the relationship between Joan of Arc, postcolonial identity, and public memory. Since her repopularization in the nineteenth century, Joan of Arc has become one of the most emblematic figures of French history. Commemorated in public statuary, celebrated by writers, and championed by politicians, la Pucelle’s story is tantamount to national myth. While Joan of Arc’s centrality to France’s iconic imagining of itself during the spread of its empire has received much critical attention, her postcolonial afterlife remains understudied. This project offers a counterpoint to the prevailing assumption that Joan of Arc has few implications for postcolonial studies by considering her as a medium through which French and francophone populations comment on the process of decolonization and its aftereffects, and consequently reframe their relationships to one another. Drawing on traditional literary texts as well as political speeches, social media posts, trial testimony, and grassroots public performance from the 1950s-present, this project asks when and to what ends French and francophone populations linked through colonial histories invoke the figure of Joan of Arc. Ultimately, I argue that Joan of Arc’s myth offers an imaginative space where groups and individuals can revive, reject, revise, and relate memories perceived as crucial to their identities. This work contributes to postcolonial studies by considering why Joan of Arc becomes a mnemonic trigger for the revision of national histories in the postcolonial age. This dissertation has implications for memory studies insofar as it evaluates the mechanisms by which memories exceed their own historical circumstances to become incorporated into new contexts in accordance with Michael Rothberg’s concept of multidirectional memory. More generally, this project provides a case study for how groups and individuals appropriate national symbols to comment on transnational concerns.
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Smithson, Tara Beth, "The Mnemonic Maid: Joan of Arc in Public Memory" (2016). LSU Doctoral Dissertations. 4339.