Race Lines and the Rhetoric of Distinction through the Académie française
Chapter 10–The 20th-Century: Colonialism and Internationalism 197
Chapter 10 The 20th-Century: Colonialism and Internationalism Nationalism, Race, and Issues of Creativity and Influence All the history of the French language—from the days of the Pléiade and the treatise of Henri Estienne under Henri III to the rhetoric of the 18th-century French Enlightenment through the foundation and duty of the Académie française—spells a solid story of nationalism. While it took the Revolution to really make French the national language, and the 19th-century to actualize its preeminence, the 20th-century opened the economy of this linguistic jour- ney into an aggressive, if revisionist, nationalism that even encompasses race and theorized inherent gifts. Indeed, although Richelieu’s catholic title made it look as though the type of discourse heard from the Académie with regard to the French language is uniquely catholic, nationalism and newer rhetoric on race made Protestants join in the chorus of linguistic superiority. Indeed, as if making peace with their past persecution—epitomized by the 1685 Revocation of the Edict of Nantes—20th-century Protestants restated their claim to the French language and its ‘revolutionary’ heritage. World War I may have invited that need, as we will see. In his 1918 Anthologie protestante française, Raoul Allier demonstrated French Protestant initiation of modern democracy for the world. While ac- knowledging that Protestantism, the Reformation, was started in Germany by Martin Luther in the 16th-century, Allier quickly argued French potency: This Huguenot literature is French to the core. […] It is a fact that Luther’s Reforma- tion...
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