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Les martyrs de la Veuve : Romantisme et peine de mort 1820-1848

Guyon, Loïc Pierre (2002) Les martyrs de la Veuve : Romantisme et peine de mort 1820-1848. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94391) (KAR id:94391)

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Between 1820 and 1848 French literature was permeated with the theme of the death penalty. Condemned characters, guillotines and execution scenes suddenly invaded novels, plays and poetry. This phenomenon was linked in the first instance with the historical context, contemporaries of the Restoration having had their memory and imagination filled with the images of the beheaded figures of the Revolution and the period that followed. Among these, one in particular captured their attention: Louis XVI. This obsession is indicative of an authentic psychological trauma that was both collective and intimate, the revolutionary regicide having been generally perceived as the worst of all imaginable crimes, that of parricide. It is naturally to art and more specifically to literature, then conceived as "the expression of society", that the task fell to rid society of this guilty conscience.

However the emergence of this theme in literature during the 1820's would not have been possible if it had not in the meantime corresponded to the rise of Romanticism. The literary topos of the death penalty indeed offered Romantic authors a challenge to meet, an artistic cause to defend, and brought about the invention of new means of expression suited to render all the violence and all the horror of the executions, an approach that itself implies an aesthetic liberation and a thematic and formal renewal.

Finally the death penalty offered romantic artists a historical cause to fight for, that of the abolition of a punishment they found barbaric and which completely contradicted their ideal of social progress. The omnipresence of this theme in romantic literature is also inseparable from the resurgence of the debate on the question of the abolition of the death penalty that grew from 1820 on, thereby adding to the discussion all of the emotional and suggestive power of artistic representation.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94391
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 25 April 2022 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Uncontrolled keywords: Death penalty and the Guillotine
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > ML Literature on music
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
A General Works > AZ History of Scholarship. The Humanities
C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CB History of civilization
D History General and Old World > D History (General)
L Education > LA History of education
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of Culture and Languages
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 08 Jul 2022 11:18 UTC
Last Modified: 17 Jul 2023 09:07 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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