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Title: 'Misery in the moorlands' : lived bodies in the Landes de Gascogne, 1870-1914
Author: Pooley, William George
ISNI:       0000 0004 4624 0851
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2014
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This thesis explores the embodied experiences of the rural population in nineteenth-century France. The prevailing historiography has treated rural bodily culture as a cultural survival swept away by ‘modernisation’ in the nineteenth century. By turning to the lives and words of rural labourers and artisans from the Landes de Gascogne, the thesis questions this account, instead showing ways that popular cultures of the body were flexible traditions, adapted by individuals to meet new needs. It does so through a close focus on the stories, songs, and other oral traditions collected by Félix Arnaudin (1844-1921) in the Grande-Lande between around 1870 and 1914. The thesis focuses on the lives of a few of Arnaudin’s 759 folklore informants, showing both how their bodily experiences were changing during this period, and how songs and stories were creative interventions, designed to shape bodily possibilities from below. The thesis draws attention to the surprising shape of rural experiences of the body, which focused on body parts such as the legs and skin for reasons specific to everyday life, while largely ignoring issues that historians might have assumed would be important, such as religion. It argues that the ordinary men and women who performed stories and sang songs were active agents in constructing their own bodies in response to material conditions of physical illness and disability, as well as a changing environment, changing class relations, or changing sexual norms in the Grande-Lande. The thesis presents an emotional and experiential view of rural bodies with a sensitivity to the different experiences of men and women, young and old, poorer and richer, but emphasizes that the body must be seen in the round, as a unifying concern that links together issues of social class, environmental change, sexual relations, work, disability, and religion.
Supervisor: Hopkin, David Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Modern Britain and Europe ; Literatures of Romance languages ; French ; Occitan ; history of the body ; modernisation ; environmental history ; folklore ; werewolves ; fairy tales ; gender ; folk songs