Karen Sullivan

title.none: Pernoud and Clin, Joan of Arc (Sullivan)

identifier.other: baj9928.0003.009 00.03.09

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Karen Sullivan, Bard College,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2000

identifier.citation: Pernoud, Regine and Marie-Veronique Clin. Joan of Arc: Her Story. Revised and Translated by Jeremy Duquesnay Adams. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999. Pp. xxiii, 304. $27.95. ISBN: 0-312-21442-1.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 00.03.09

Pernoud, Regine and Marie-Veronique Clin. Joan of Arc: Her Story. Revised and Translated by Jeremy Duquesnay Adams. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999. Pp. xxiii, 304. $27.95. ISBN: 0-312-21442-1.

Reviewed by:

Karen Sullivan
Bard College

With his translation and revision of Regine Pernoud and Marie-Veronique Clin's Jeanne d'Arc (Paris: Librairie Artheme Fayard, 1986), Jeremy duQuesnay Adams contributes to a recent renaissance of interest in Joan of Arc, both scholarly and popular, in this country. Pernoud and Clin's volume differs from other works on Joan currently in print in English, however, in that it consists not of a continuous narrative but of a collection of different materials that together provide a sort of handbook to Johannic studies. The first part, "The Drama," is devoted to a historical account of Joan's life, now amplified with Adams' description of the Hundred Years War and the Great Schism; the second part, "The Cast of Principal Characters," furnishes sketches of political, ecclesiastical, and military personages relevant to Joan's career, now expanded to include background information about the judges and assistants at her trial at Rouen, among others; and the third part, "Issues and Images," addresses several areas of confusion about the heroine, including the name she was known by, the language she spoke, and the conditions of her capture outside Compiegne, as well as depictions of her in various cultural venues. Appendices provide an edition and translation of Joan's letters, a chronology and itinerary of her movements, an assortment of maps and plans, and a condensed but updated bibliography. In general, Pernoud and Clin have written a work that should be of use to students and scholars alike, and Adams has provided a capable translation of their text into English, with explanations of places, peoples, and events potentially unfamiliar to non-French audiences, yet readers should be forewarned that the language of the text is not all that is translated. Having persuaded Pernoud and Clin of the advisability of an "adaptation to a new audience" (xvi), Adams removes from the text a significant percentage of the authors' interpretative interventions and, in doing so, reorients the work so that it appeals to readers more factual than literary in their sensibilities and more detached than engaged, whether as Catholics, as citizens, or as women, in their approach to this figure.

In reading this translation, one is struck first by the contrast between Pernoud and Clin's highly literary writing style, designed to involve the reader in the events they are narrating, and Adams' apparent wariness of such rhetorical manipulation. Pernoud and Clin most often select as titles of their chapters phrases from the responses Joan gave to her interrogators at Rouen and from the testimony her contemporaries provided at her rehabilitation, yet Adams replaces "'On dit qu'une pucelle'" with "Her Story Begins," "'Un an, guere plus'" with "Intrigue, Frustration, and Capture," and "'Je sais bien que ces Anglais me feront mourir'" with "Joan's Trial and Execution at Rouen." Within these chapters, Pernoud and Clin stress the original documents again by employing passages from them as subtitles for separate sections, such as "'Va, va et advienne que pourra'" and "'Evêque, je meurs par vous,'" and by concluding these sections with more such passages, so that the fifteenth-century words hang suspended in the air, resonating in the reader's memory. Adams replaces these subtitles with summaries of events in the opening of his chapters and thus obscures the authors' dramatic highlighting of the text. Within these sections, Pernoud and Clin tend to use quotations before they identify the person they are citing, so that the reader savors the words before grasping the context that produced and informed them. Adams, in contrast, always identifies a speaker before introducing what he or she has said, so that the reader, comprehending the full meaning of the utterance at first glance, is less mystified and less struck by it. In all of these ways, Pernoud and Clin show themselves to value the words used to recount events in the original documents, cherishing their often startling vividness and beauty, while Adams shows himself to value the events and the words only insofar as they communicate these events. It is not only the language of these medieval documents that Pernoud and Clin attend to. In their own writing, they employ fragments, inverted syntaxes, and exclamations to stress the aspects of the narrative that seem to them most important, while Adams usually translates these locutions into standard academic sentences, with subject-verb-object structures and conventional punctuation. The authors move among the past, present, and future tenses to make the reader feel that he or she is in the midst of the action being described, while Adams relies upon the past tense throughout, so that the action appears more remote. The authors speculate about their characters' thoughts, such as Charles VII's impression upon first meeting the woman who would have him crowned and Joan's reaction upon first beholding the English Channel, employing the free indirect style to express these reflections when they see fit, yet Adams appears suspicious of such conjectures and either omits these passages or translates them into the indirect style. For the authors, the original sources and their own account of them are literary as well as historical texts, not only informing readers through what they say but moving them through how they say it; for the translator, these works are instructive, though not stirring. Though Adams praises Pernoud's talent at "endowing historical precision with dramatic coloration," he acknowledges that he has been content merely to "transmit . . . the historical argument of this book" (xvi).

Literary in their reading of the original sources of Joan and in their writing of their own account, Pernoud and Clin express an appreciation for the historical value of literary texts, in general, in a way that Adams does not. These authors depict Christine de Pizan as "historienne et poete de son temps" (109), as if these roles are complementary rather than contradictory, and they cite Christine's complaint about the growing importance of Lady Opinion, as if even this allegorical excursus is of historical value. They praise Alain Chartier, another eulogist of Joan, as the inventor of the prose poem and, hence, as someone who also unites, through the very novelty of his genre, the sobriety of history and the élan of poetry. Addressing these two fifteenth-century literary figures, Adams translates the authors' assertion that "No assessments are less guarded or more enthusiastic than these poetic voices as they record Joan's victories and Charles' coronation" (71), but he hesitates to adopt their reliance upon these figures as historical sources, and he omits their radical claim that "Sans doute, pour parler de Jeanne, et mieux encore pour la comprendre, fallait-il d'abord être poète" (109). Choosing a "straightforward" (xv) transmission of "the historical argument of the book" over the mediatory narration of "this grande dame of French letters" (xvi), Adams excludes not only passages from the text that confuse the line between the historical and the literary but passages that espouse such a confusion.

Skeptical of Pernoud and Clin's literary approach to Joan of Arc, Adams appears skeptical as well of the various identifications these authors bring to bear upon her story and, first of all, of the Catholicism that informs their viewpoint. Pernoud and Clin depict Joan and her contemporaries as acting, on occasion, upon Christian impulses. When a priest to whom Joan has confessed attempts to exorcise her, its is "dans sa logique de bonne chrétienne" (35) that Joan reasons that he has no reason to suspect her. When the people around Joan do her homage, it is a "sens chrétien" (254) that inspires them to do so. And, throughout these original documents, the authors observe not only a "transparance de vie quotidienne qui forme son environnement" (253) but a "transparance à l'action de Dieu" (253). All of these phrases Adams omits from his translation, so that Joan, her peers, and the texts appear to function in a far more secular manner than they did before. As the medieval figures and texts no longer seem so Catholic in the translation, the modern authors and their intended audience no longer seem to belong to a shared religious community. When Adams introduces Jean Gerson, he presents him as "a respected authority on legal and religious matters" (70) instead of as "celui à qui fut un temps attribuée l'Imitation de Jesus-Christ" (107), the celebrated work of Catholic meditation still important today among Catholic circles, and, when he discusses the importance of baptism in linking inhabitants of Joan's native village, he leaves out the authors' depiction of a "société des baptisés, tous aimés de Dieu et admis grâce au baptême à une participation à la vie divine" (254) and their comparison of this society to that which Vatican II attempted to create three decades ago. Adams defends Pernoud against the charge that she created "a national heroine tritely Catholic in piety" (xvii), yet his excisions from the text seem designed to protect her against this accusation and to protect the reader from being expected to relate to Joan on that religious basis.

If Pernoud and Clin's Joan is rendered less relevant to modern Catholics, she is also rendered less relevant to modern Frenchmen and, even more, to modern citizens imbued with Enlightenment principles. When these authors suggest that the English conquest of France had provoked "une resistance comparable à celle que nous connaitrons au XXe siècle contre une autre occupation" (89), Adams translates their words, understandably, as a "resistance that can be best compared to the French resistance against German occupation in the twentieth century" (56), yet this shift from an occupation that "we" know and that needs only to be evoked to one that the "French" underwent and that needs to be specified is not without its consequences for this text. As the readers are no longer assumed to be familiar with Thomas à Kempis or interested in today's Catholic Church, they are also no longer imagined to be French or, at least, to be sensitive to the events of recent French history. Adams does translate Pernoud's identification of Joan as the "prototype of the political prisoner, of the hostage, and of the victim of oppression" (xiii) in her forward to the English edition, yet he leaves out a series of comments she makes during the narrative itself that reinforce this characterization of the heroine. When Pernoud and Clin address Joan's unhappiness during her imprisonment, for example, they note, Notre époque, qui a étendu l'univers carcéral au-delà de tout ce qui a pu exister auparavant, appliquant la peine de prison non seulement aux conséquences de la guerre, mais aussi aux délits d'opinion, voir l'infligéant à nombre de victimes totalement innocentes--que l'on songe aux prises d'otages--devrait reconnaître en Jeanne celle qui aura éprouvé toutes les detrésses d'une vie de prisonnière. (144) When they affirm again that Joan was a political prisoner, jailed, tried, and executed because of her defiance of the powers around her and not because of her alleged crimes, they add, "Notre XXe siècle a suffisamment d'exemples du genre à proposer pour que chacun comprenne" (167). Adams champions Pernoud against accusations that she invented a Joan "tritely . . . Gaullist in politics" (xvii), yet, once again, the pattern of his deletions suggests a desire to curb such criticisms or at least to curb possible complaints against her tendency to approximate medieval and modern history.

Pernoud and Clin's Joan, finally, appears far less connected to women in this version than she did in the original text. The French authors highlight a series of women who played important or, at least, sympathetic roles during the course of Joan's history, from Catherine Le Royer, in whose house Joan resided as she awaited an escort to the dauphin, and Christine de Pizan, who composed one of the first poems in celebration of Joan, to the "three Jeannes" of the Burgundian castle of Beaurevoir, who are thought to have comforted her during her captivity, and Isabelle Romée, Joan's mother, who advocated a reevaluation of her case a quarter century after her death. Adams condenses the authors' treatment of Christine, removing, as we have seen, their allusions to her Lady Opinion, and he underplays their emphasis upon a bond between these two exceptional women, leaving out, for example, their remark that "On sent que Christine de Pisan a eu quelque mal à contenir son propre enthousiasme devant cette 'chose sur toutes merveillable'" (109). Even more strikingly, Adams removes a paragraph about the "three Jeannes," so that the reader fails to learn that Jeanne de Luxembourg visited the tomb of her sainted brother Pierre at Avignon every year and that it was during one such visit, in 1430, that she expired and thus deprived Joan of her apparent protection. When Adams does refer to these ladies, he omits their characterization as people "qui lui manifestent une évidente sympathie" (150) and the explanation that "La façon dont la prisonnière en parlera lorsqu'elle évoquera à son procès le temps passé à Beaurevoir ne laisse aucun doute." (150-51). Pernoud and Clin recount how a particular Englishwoman participated in the verification of Joan's virginity at Rouen and allege that, after this encounter with the prisoner, "Anne Bedford, émué, fit défense aux gardiens de la molester" (166), yet the translator states, more neutrally, "Anne of Burgundy may well have forbidden Joan's guards to molest her" (105). Many of these erasures of indications of the alleged solidarity between Joan and other women may be attributed to the translator's reluctance to make conjectures about his characters' thoughts, but the same cannot be said of his deletion of the authors' generalizations about women. Pernoud and Clin affirm that, in advising her companions at Orléans to rest, eat, and drink before the next battle, "Jeanne a la réaction du bon sens--un bon sens de femme, qui comprend mieux que le stratège ce dont les hommes qui se battent depuis le matin, ont besoin." (77-78), yet Adams interprets the incident, instead, as "an instance of medieval women's mastery of the domain of food, its preparation and serving" (47). The authors state, in the course of their consideration of the ladies of Beaurevoir, "En ce XVe siècle où la guerre est partout et a pris un visage implacable, seules les femmes savent préserver ce caractère d'humanité que le respect de l'autre commande vis-à-vis de l'être le plus démuni qui soit: le prisonnier, tombé au pouvoir de plus fort que lui" (151), and they assert that women have continued to manifest this concern for political prisoners to this day, with the exception of "des femmes chefs de gouvernement de notre époque . . . précisement en Angleterre" (151). The translator appears unwilling to let pass generalizations about women's inherent nature, whether as more practical or more sympathetic than their male counterparts, and he either shifts these generalizations from a natural to a social register or eliminates them altogether. "One need not be a patriotic French nationalist, or a Christian, or a feminist to find Joan of Arc fascinating" (xv), Adams writes in his introduction, and, in contrast to the original authors, it is not as a feminist, whether constructivist or essentialist, liberal or conservative, that he writes.

Readers comparing Adams' translation of Jeanne d'Arc with Pernoud and Clin's original work will find advantages in both texts. In the translation, the "Cast of Principal Characters," as noted, is expanded to include such important figures as Philip the Good, Georges de La Trémoille, and Christine de Pizan, though the section continues to emphasize political rather than social history and, hence, to overlook the less documented precursors or counterparts of Joan, such as Jeanne-Marie de Maille, Marie d'Avignon, and Pierronne of Brittany, whose study would require a different historical approach. Brief but useful mention is made here of research on Joan conducted since 1986, such as the possible discovery of Joan's armor (225) and the tentative identification of a female armed figure in a fifteenth-century fresco as Joan (241), though Bonnie Wheeler and Charles T. Wood's Fresh Verdicts on Joan of Arc is cited most heavily, especially the articles by Wheeler (98, 226) and Woods (27, 113, 219, 235-36). Adams' emphasis upon the influence of the conciliar movement on Joan's career is well-chosen and may, one hopes, herald further research into this rich topic. Those who are looking for a solid handbook to studying Joan of Arc, whether for themselves or for their students, will find this translation to be a useful tool, yet those who still value the kind of personal and idiosyncratic interpretation of this figure for which Pernoud is well-known will still have to rely upon the original text.