Race Lines and the Rhetoric of Distinction through the Académie française
Chapter 2–The Académie française and Indirect Exclusions 29
Chapter 2 The Académie française and Indirect Exclusions When talking about access to the Académie française, the notion of exclu- sion can be defined in many ways. There are literal exclusions of members who were elected, which constitutes a ‘disgrace’; and there are general, quiet, undeclared yet real exclusions which keep certain groups of people from even the dream of undergoing the test of a candidacy. The undeclared general exclusions apply to a variety of groups with defi- nitions ranking from gender to class, ethnicity to nationality, ideology to po- litical orientation. They use French, contribute to its development, ‘enrich- ment’, and expansion; they are French or French-speaking, but not conven- tionally established enough to fit the likely profile of an Academic candidate. Class Matters We already know that in France the aristocracy—of blood and mind accord- ing to Louis Réau (p.317)—had the monopoly of French cultural institutions (led by the Académie) all the way into the 18th-century, and that only when ‘ordinary gentlemen’ like Voltaire and d’Alembert succeeded in joining the Académie with the second half of the 18th-century did the bourgeoisie and the philosophers without nobility gain influence, thus making the non blood ‘princes’ actual participants in the ‘making’ of the French mind. We also know that with the underlying monarchic system of the elections, ‘lower’ class geniuses had to wait with time in order to even earn a chance after the monarchies were ‘retired’, and when the ‘democratic’...
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