Joan of Arc as a revelatory symbol in eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth century literature, music, art and sculpture

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Art and Music Histories


David F. Tatham


music, art history, fine arts, joan of arc

Subject Categories

French and Francophone Language and Literature | Other History of Art, Architecture, and Archaeology


This study concerns itself with the many and diverse symbols with which Joan of Arc has been invested in drama, poetry, fiction, biography, music, painting and sculpture, from the mid-eighteenth to the mid-twentieth century. To this end, certain key works by important artists are examined, each of which 'speaks' not only for its author but for the age in which the author lived. These are Voltaire's satirical epic poem La Pucelle d'Orleans, Southey's epic poem Joan of Arc, Schiller's drama Die Jungfrau von Orleans, Verdi's opera Giovanna d'Arco, Tchaikovsky's opera The Maid of Orleans, Mark Twain's chronicle in novel form Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, Shaw's play Saint Joan, Brecht's drama St. Joan of the Stockyards, Anatole France's two-volume biography La vie de Jeanne d'Arc, Peguy's Le mystere de la charite de Jeanne d'Arc and Claudel's and Honegger's dramatic oratorio Jeanne d'Arc au bucher. In the final chapter, the two-hundred year period is summarized through an examination of the work of various painters and sculptors for whom Joan became a visual symbol often paralleling her symbolic manifestations in literature and music.

Such writers, composers and artists, who often acted as 'spokespersons' for particular cultural and political movements, and even for an entire age, are especially useful in providing us with diverse examples of Joan's symbolic durability and adaptability in Western culture, presenting the reader with revealing insights into each artist, group and movement which has appropriated her, from the Enlightenment and the early stirrings of Romanticism (c. 1750) to the Modernist responses of the 1920s and 30s.

The uniqueness of Joan's brief career, which led her from remote village to the stake at Rouen, seems to have provided each age with an anchor wherewith to steady its own particular vision of the world. Yet, while all the works examined make their own particular contribution in this respect, it is the contention of this study that Claudel's and Honegger's oratorio of 1935 is the most complete expression of the historical Joan and of her durability and adaptability as 'transformed' reality.


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