Skyler Artes Victor Hugo's Paris Reviving Palingenesis After reading Victor Hugo's Contemplations, Jules Michelet wrote to the exiled poet. The historian criticized the text's apparent attachment to Christianity. In an epistolary response to the Michelet, Hugo refutes this claim. He declares that his true ambition is to detach Christ from institutional and ornamental distractions: "Je ne puis oublier que Jésus a été une incarnation saignante du progrès; je le retire au prêtre; je détache le martyre du crucifix et je décloue le Christ du christianisme."1 Once rid of preacher, crucifix, and dogma, the tortured figure of Christ represents pure progress. Though, for Hugo, the Christ narrative was not the only story of progress to feature immaculate conception, crucifixion, and resurrection. In the commissioned introduction to Paris-Guide, the city guide for the 1867 Universal Exhibition, Hugo offers an elegiac portrait of Christ's modern successor: Paris.2 The rarely studied Paris stands midway between differing views of a supreme Paris in the voluminous Les Misérables (1862) and Quatrevingt-treize (1874).3 In Les Misérables, Hugo writes that Paris is "un total. . . . Qui voit Paris croit voir le dessous de toute l'histoire" (I: 748). Besides offering a lens through which to
French Forum – University of Nebraska Press
Published: Jun 16, 2010
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