Mette Harder, History, presented on a “Family Romances” Panel on 5 March at the Society for French Historical Studies in Nashville.
The 1793 death sentence against the French king Louis XVI, according to Lynn Hunt’s seminal work The Family Romance of the French Revolution, was not just a physical and symbolic break with the Old Regime, but also a political patricide, reflecting the revolutionaries’ disillusionment with kings as father figures. Dr. Harder’s paper re-investigates the claim that there was a widespread rejection of political fatherhood and paternalistic models of political authority in the French Revolution. Based on new research on legislators’ speeches and writings from the mid-1790s, it argues that, instead of banning political father figures, the revolutionaries experimented with different types of paternalistic identities by representing themselves as new ‘fathers of the people’ and seeking to reinvest political power with new forms of sacrality and majesty. This paper was presented as part of a panel entitled ‘Family Romances and the French Revolution’, together with Camille Robcis (chair, Cornell), Lynn Hunt (commentator, UCLA), Thomas Dodman (Boston College) and Rebecca L. Spang (Indiana University). Support was provided by the History Department and SUNY Oneonta faculty development funds.