Segments in this Video

French Intellectuals (01:55)


Many notable French intellectuals died in the early '80s. This series has sought to give us an understanding of the French intellectual, and the period in which he thrived.

Credits: Great Expectations: French Intellectuals in the 20th Century (00:32)

Credits: Great Expectations: French Intellectuals in the 20th Century

Idea of the Intellectual (00:41)

At the end of the nineteenth century the term "intellectual" comes into the French language, as people come to believe that a writer or artist should set aside his work to engage in a cause. This program will explain how this came about.

Dreyfus Affair and French Right (02:51)

The Dreyfus Affair disrupted a self-satisfied France and triggered anti-Semitism. Reactionary intellectuals of the Academy preferred authority and order to justice.

Dreyfus Affair and French Left (01:54)

The Left initially saw the matter as a dispute between bourgeoisie factions, and many Leftists joined anti-Semitic attacks against Dreyfus. The French intellectual emerged from the turmoil.

Dreyfus Supporters (01:48)

Supporters of Dreyfus gradually became a movement. Several painters, claiming authority as artists, took up his cause. Thinkers and writers took up the cause based on ideas of universal truth and justice.

Dreyfusards (02:29)

Zola, who hated politics, entered the fray with J'Accuse at the cost of persecution. Other early supporters are listed. Dreyfus was eventually released; the controversy created the intellectual as a type.

Dreyfus Supporters Divide (02:07)

After Dreyfus's release, Dreyfusard intellectuals who had adopted bourgeoisie, patriotic rhetoric joined the government. Radicals such as Peguy dissidents saw them as sellouts and adopted the anti-republican, militaristic, racial rhetoric of their opponents on the Right.

Peguy's Death (01:11)

Peguy died living out his nationalist, militarist ideals by fighting for France.

World War I and Surrealism (02:35)

Many French intellectuals who fought in WWI embraced pacifism. Surrealism emerged as intellectuals despaired of Western civilization and embracing nihilism.

Dancing on Ruins (02:07)

Many intellectuals responded to the end of War with gleeful absurdity, seeking to overthrow the "ancien regime of the mind" through ridicule and mock violence. They held a mock trial for Barres and mock execution of Anatole France.

Surrealism (01:52)

Surrealist Antonin Artaud sought to communicate total uncertainty through bodily contortions. Surrealists embraced passion, cruelty, absurdity and suicide.

Russian Revolution and Intellectuals (02:49)

A new generation of intellectuals found a great abyss and did not know how to give it shape. The Russian Revolution answered their hope and despair.

Russia's Attractions for French Intellectuals (01:50)

Lenin's regime's placing artists and pamphleteers in high positions enchanted French intellectuals. The new Russia's austerity and purity fascinated visiting intellectuals; Sadoul recounts.

Communist French Intellectuals (01:24)

Rappoport became the first major French intellectual to join the USSR, and the French Communist Party. Russian-born Souvarine led a propaganda group.

Georges Politzer (01:59)

Henry Lefebvre remembers Georges Politzer as hard, violent and uncompromising, in contrast to his own conciliatory approach.

Intellectuals Join Party (01:15)

Paul Nizan was more interested in the excitement of rebellion than in Marxism itself. Aragon and other Surrealists joined the Communist Party. Sartre kept his distance.

War in Morocco (01:31)

Surrealist, Internationalists and Communist intellectuals joined forces against France's war in Morocco.

Malraux in China (00:11)

Malraux, excited by the masses rising up, went to China to fight in its civil war.

Understanding Motives (00:58)

We must look closely at the motives of intellectuals in embracing Communism, and find the emotion that is at the root of their enthusiasm.

New Man (02:41)

The dream of a New Man caused intellectuals to sweep aside scruples and embrace Communism. Rolland idealized the brutality as the revival of life force. See film idealizing Russia's youth.

Aragon (01:40)

After initial reservations, Aragon embraced Communism, breaking with friends such as Breton and adopting the zeal of a convert. The motivation of French intellectuals' embrace of Communism is ultimately religious.

Kojeve (01:55)

Kojeve introduced and interpreted Marx's precursor Hegel for the many French intellectuals who were his students. Lefebvre recalls his frustration that Kojeve did not try to apply Hegel to contemporary politics.

Anti-Capitalism (00:48)

Intellectuals assumed that capitalism was doomed. See a French Communist Party propaganda film urging capitalism's overthrow.

Knowledge of Lenin's Atrocities (02:40)

Communist intellectuals did not dispute books recounting Lenin's atrocities, but their faith barred them from assimilating them. See a propaganda film openly celebrating "reeducation through labor."

Complicity in Show Trials (03:42)

Communist intellectuals watched show trials in the halls and were silent. Truth-seekers in the tradition of Zola during the Dreyfus affair are nowhere to be found.

Communist Party's Infallibility (01:09)

For intellectuals, Desanti explains, the Soviet Communist Party by definition embodied virtue, having internalized the ethical substance of revolution running through history.

Credits: Great Expectations: French Intellectuals in the 20th Century (01:50)

Credits: Great Expectations: French Intellectuals in the 20th Century

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Great Expectations: French Intellectuals in the 20th Century

Part of the Series : French Intellectuals in the 20th Century
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This program covers the following topics: the birth of the intellectual; Zola and Proust; the Great War; pacifism and surrealism; the Bolshevik Revolution; the new religion of communism; André Malraux; and the growing signals of terror from Moscow, which go unheeded. A part of the series French Intellectuals in the 20th Century. (Portions in French with English subtitles, 52 minutes)

Length: 52 minutes

Item#: BVL53621

ISBN: 978-1-61753-898-8

Copyright date: ©1990

Closed Captioned

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