Becoming Cultured

Lately I’ve been feeding my innate fondness for French culture and history with more and more knowledge, in an effort to broaden my cultural understanding, especially with regard to European culture.

Lately I have been glued to a film entitled “The Rise and Fall of Versailles”, which is a three part documentary that covers the details of the history of the French monarchy beginning with the reign of King Louis XIV. The documentary empahsizes life within the community at The Palace of Versailles, which is where all of the royals abode when France was a monarchy.

While on the surface it seems extremely one-sided to dive deep into the lives of the royals with what seems like a retrospective magnifying glass, it is important to consider to what extent life at Versailles influenced all of France and much of Europe during this time period. Versailles was not only the government of France, but it’s very identity and a fountain of hope for the French up until the French revolution. By that time the bourgeoisie (middle-class) had realized that Versailles was full of hedonistic self-serving individuals, with their own interests at heart, and the interests of the general public, only in theory.

By 1789, France was ripe for revolution. Truthfully, angst had been festering long prior, and had been fueled by mistrust, and anger toward a lavishly adorned aristocracy, who was notorious for tyranny, and imposing taxes on a starving middle class while the nobility paid none, but feasted instead. The first sign of rebellion was noted in constant propaganda about Marie Antoinette’s sexuality, which infiltrated France throughout the majority of her reign. It may have been a bad idea on part of the royals to select an Austrian woman to become Queen of France, knowing that Austria and France were rivals at the time. She was in every way concerned with maintaining her status and both life and death as a Queen. To France she was a whore and a gluten, but paid no attention to life among lay citizens in France and so lived the majority of her life in oblivion to the hatred that swept through France for she and her husband King Louis XI.

In a monarchy in which a king reigns with the amount of power that the Kings Louis 14th through the 16th reigned with, a relatively strict social class system existed. The class system I have learned, consisted for centuries of the nobility (royals and aristocrats), the bourgeoiosie (the middle class which was itself divided into three castes) and the peasantry. The government was established among the nobility, which consisted of a King, and parliament. In reality, the kings did not rely as heavily on parliament as did they on their wives or other advisers in the courts (courtiers) perhaps a matter of admiration for the demonstrating power. In 1766 Louis XV actually eradicated parliament, asserting that he alone had power. It is no surprise he did this, as his predecessor Louis XIV and his courtiers referred to him as Apollo (the Greek sun God), suggesting that the whole world revolved around him. This was a blood line who loved power from the beginning.

The Rise and Fall of Versailles is a tragic film which depicts the god-obsessed, and power- consumed nature of the nobility in France. It is a nation with a history of frequent bloodshed, domestic oppression, love for art, intellect, and the aristocratic way of life. It is a beautiful history, and thankfully The Palace of Versailles still stands to bring it to life.

Longue vie à la France

C’est trés délicieux
Lately when I think of Europe, I think of scones!

She was Beautiful…

When was the last time you sat down to savor the intellectual satisfaction of an author of old? Classical authors such as William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and F. Scott Fitzgerald are the pillars on which our modern concepts and inspiration for writing have derived. They have given validation to a wide variety of approaches to writing as they each possess their own “voice”, and depict the era in which they lived in their own particular way.

I do not personally prefer Shakespeare’s writing over the others, although as a playwright, when his pieces are enacted on stage, I find myself completely and utterly captivated. I can appreciate how ingenious he was in that he was able to romanticize tragedy over and over, without it coming across as gory as it ought in reality . My only critique is that I think he could have chosen more simple language and used less metaphors where they were not necessary. I do not like literature where every other line has a meaning that is twice as deep as it sounds. It only leads to headaches and for me it’s plain annoying to say the least.

There’s a lot to love about Emerson however. Emerson’s writing has profound truths scattered throughout his pieces, and are masterfully written with a touch of poetic humor. For example: “Finish each day and be done with it, you have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense. (Emerson; Self Reliance and Other Essays.) Just in this very saying I feel that he is laying a very vital foundation to peace of mind and tranquility. Here he has written a very profound truth, with such eloquence and gravity as to imprint a most settling conviction on the reader’s intellect and heart, and yet it is written subtly enough that one does not feel preached at.

My only critique to Emerson’s writing was his pessimism, and yet even that is not able to be considered a sin really, because writing has always been most rich when it is most authentic. Although he is not my favorite of them all, I tip my hat to him because in many ways his writing has grounded me. Even his pessimism has taught me that constant joy is not always realistic. He’s taught me that a healthy dose of self-reliance is necessary in this world where every man is more interested in his own pursuits, over the welfare of his neighbor. In essence, it is “every man for himself” in this life , and as harsh as that sounds, my reality has aligned perfectly with that perspective.

My Heart For Women who Aspired to be Published In the 19th Century.

We all know that women in the United States and in Western society in general, have for the most part fought and fought to be acknowledged and to have their writing and other works viewed as equal importance with men. Women were considered not only of of less importance, but of less intellectual value than men! After all, they were made to be masters of all things domestic, not really to have a voice in the world; or at least such was the ideology of the time.

Lately I have been chewing on some good little bits of poetry by Emily Dickinson. My, is she interesting! I’ve yet to decide whether or not she will be at the top of my list of my favorites, but she is simple and insightful. She has a knack for verse poetry, as opposed to prose like some of my other favorites, and I admire her for that distinguishing factor. Another area of praise, is her ability portray death as desirable. Some have argued that she lived in constant fear of dying, but her poetry helps the reader to become increasingly more comfortable with the fact of the matter. Death is inevitable, and perhaps we it should not be so daunting.

Writing is not what they taught us over and over in school. We were taught that academic vernacular is always most appropriate, but were not always exposed to the proper resources to expanse our vocabulary. In instances where vocabulary was nailed into our memory, it was done so routinely, and according to curriculum that there was little room to really understand the words with one’s soul. Writing is being connected with your soul, and intellect, and it is in that very connection where the magic happens with the pen. We must study classical authors (at our leisure and for our own enjoyment) in order to grasp how literature and the meaning of “good writing” has evolved over time. We must know ourselves. If we do not know ourselves, we cannot have a voice, and without a voice, our words are drowned out into the noice of other authors, voices and literature that are plain average and have not left their mark on this world.

You define your own writing as much as you define your own identity, and in doing so you allow other that same freedom.

What have you been reading?

With love,