Bridging the gap between center and periphery : la région as a medium to thinking the nation in George Sand, Guy de Maupassant, and Marcel Pagnol
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This project examines how the division between Paris and la province has evolved over the course of a century, approximately 1850-1950, to give way to the territory of la région and its ideological construction. I examine how French identity has been shaped in reference to la région as a place of essence which has led to the construction of a myth of authentic France or France profonde. Focusing on three authors, George Sand (1804-76), Guy de Maupassant (1850-93) and Marcel Pagnol (1895-1974), each of whom wrote popular works that focused on a different region of France, I explore the evolution of the representation of la région as it was constructed according to the period of national crisis and the changing definition of the French identity. Applying the correlation between le peuple and the nation as formulated by Jules Michelet to Sand’s “romans champêtres,” as well as Ernest Renan’s insistence of France’s cultural heritage to Maupassant and Pagnol, I argue that the small community offers these authors the opportunity to reflect in their works on the nation. I contend that these authors have been misread as regionalist artists whose representation is limited to the defense of the cultural heritage of their region. Instead, as I demonstrate, la région is used by Sand, Maupassant and Pagnol as a frame to comment on the community and the nation at large, and critique or defend its social practices.