Author Essays, Interviews, and Excerpts, History, Literature

Notre Dame Football and eighteenth-century revolutionary ephemera

FINAL Douthwaite football program Sept 21 2013 Ad

Actual page from a program distributed by the University of Notre Dame at the Michigan State–Notre Dame game on September 21, 2013, with FEATURED ACADEMIC Julia V. Douthwaite, professor of French and Francophone studies and expert on the French Enlightenment, the Revolution, and French–English relations in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries—

From Douthwaite’s The Frankenstein of 1790 and Other Lost Chapters from Revolutionary France:

Consider a Juicy Couture print advertisement of 2010. A Marie Antoinette look-alike with an enormous pink hairdo stares out at viewers dolefully. She is cradling, with one hand, a huge bottle of perfume that has a bird perched on top, and gesturing suggestively, with her other hand, to her nether parts. This portrait’s subtle repurposing of the Greuze painting Jeune Fille qui pleure son oiseau mort (1765) or the eighteenth-century motif of a girl lamenting her pet bird’s demise or escape (read her lost virginity) makes a provocative commentary on the queen’s rumored promiscuity while inviting consumers to try it on for themselves. Or consider the bizarrely menacing “Napoleonic” ad campaign for Dolce and Gabbana clothing launched in 2006, one of whose advertisements showed two men in dapper period fashions threatening a third in a chair while another lay on the floor bleeding from a head wound. The melancholy for a racier, more dangerous time is tangible. Lest one judge these ads too harshly, it is essential to recall that their delivery systems, that is, high-end fashion magazines, predetermine the cultural values they can be expected to impart. The visual shock provided by sexual provocation and allusions to sadism and torture are attractive commodities among sixteen- to twenty-five-year-olds. It is unreasonable to expect messages of moral restraint and civic responsibility to be reproduced in a genre and product designed to market luxury to the young; elitism, power, and exclusivity sell better. Nevertheless, the slavish admiration of privilege that runs through these images gives pause: why should we citizens of modern democracies mourn this version of the past?