Peer-Reviewed Journal Details
Mandatory Fields
Whelan, R
Seventeenth-Century French Studies
Turning to Gold: The Role of the Witness in French Protestant Galley Slave Narratives
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Optional Fields
The interaction between power and dissidence in representational culture is the focus of this article, which weaves together some of Pascal's reflections on power and imagination, the notion of the King's two bodies, and its representation in contemporary film, with the symbolism of the wounded body in French Protestant galley slave narratives. The galleys were a baroque theatre of power, which were intended to represent the King's glory. But Protestant galley slaves positioned themselves, by means of their narratives, as witnesses, whose wounded bodies spoke not of glory but of abuse of power, and in this way they subverted the representational function of the galleys. However, the role of the witness, which they ascribe to themselves, is problematic, because developments in the experimental sciences meant that the witness was perceived at the time as a dispassionate observer. Yet bearing witness to limit experiences requires affect. The article studies the way this problem is addressed in the interplay between the narrative construct of the first- and the second-degree witnesses in one Protestant galley slave narrative, which tells the story of Louis de Marolles. The body, whether the symbolic body of the King, the mystical body of Christ, or the wounded body of the galley slave, is a shifting sign, which gives insight into the competing political and religious discourses of the day.
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