From Library Journal
Rearick (history, Univ. of Massachusetts) traces how the myths and symbols of popular culture fostered a common sense of French national identity during a disturbing and troubling time. He argues that popular culture helped people cope and survive during the world wars, and he draws examples from photos, songs, placards, films, music-hall repertoires, and musical stars. During World War I, for example, patriotism was extolled through cultural representations of le poilu, the tough French soldier, while in the postwar years commercial culture tried to steer attention away from political causes. The author asks us to consider the extent to which culture should be indicted for its failure to focus on economic and political problems, and he speculates on the utility of these recurring images for today. This fascinating and important book should be of interest to specialists in French history and culture.?Marie Marmo Mullaney, Caldwell Coll., N.J.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Between 1914 and 1945, popular culture in France flourished at an almost frenetic pace. Anchored by two world wars, that tumultuous period witnessed the emergence of a new type of social imagination fueled primarily by the media. According to Rearick, the French responded to the turmoil of those crisis years by creating and embracing a seemingly limitless string of images glorifying the "little people" or the ordinary Frenchman. Those nationalistic and heroic representations, appearing in various guises in songs and on films, are vital to understanding the collective French psyche of the era. Popular literature, cinema, and music, by continuously offering a rich variety of myths and symbols, provided both an escape valve and a survival mechanism for a population attempting to cope with privation and uncertainty. Trenchant cultural history. Margaret Flanagan