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The Complete Mayeux

Use and Abuse of a French Icon

Elizabeth K. Mix

This interdisciplinary study considers the creation, use and re-evaluation of an imaginary hunchback dwarf - Mayeux - hero of the July Monarchy. Created as an «anonymous» messenger of criticisms against the government by artists and writers fearful of censorship, the dwarf appeared in literature, prints, decorative art objects, popular chansons and theatrical performances. Mayeux's origins are traced from associations with court fools, carnival clowns and scientific theories such as physiognomy, phrenology and comparative anatomy. His ambiguous personality and shifting meanings are identified through consideration of his multiple users and their individual political stances. The methods for making Mayeux seem «real» and his promotion as a hero are examined, as are the many media in which he existed. His appearance in social and political situations including pornography, censorship, familial relations and governmental structure are documented. A final section considers changes that the meaning of Mayeux underwent when this character was seen in retrospect as a symbol of the July Monarchy, regarded as an embarrassing period in French history. By considering «Mayeux criticism», initiated by Jules Champfleury and Charles Baudelaire, it is possible to see modifications in meaning created by the history itself as it is reconfigured by both historians and art historians for new eras.
Contents: Mayeux demande à parler - Caricature and Types - Bienvenue chez Mayeux - Mayeux's Popularity and his Audience - Mayeux Collectibles - Thespian Mayeux - Mayeux and July Monarchy Literati - La Création de Mayeux - The Significance of Hunchbacks - Fools, Clowns, Physiognomy and Phrenology, Mayeux en Société, Mayeux and the Middle-Class Professions - Mayeux, Phallicism and Pornography - Mayeux se jette dans la politique - Mayeux, the July Monarchy and the juste milieu - Mayeux, the symbol of the poire and scatology - Mayeux and the Napoleonic Revival under Louis-Philippe - Mayeux and Censorship - Mayeux à suivre - Mayeux in Retrospect: Interpretations of Mayeux to 1991.