• The Spectacle of Piety on the Brittany Coast

    Maura Coughlin (see profile)
    Folklore, France, Area studies, Art, History
    Item Type:
    Brittany, Pilgrimage, festivals, pardons, ritual, French studies, Art history
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    Artists and writers who journeyed to the coast of Western Brittany were fascinated by the spectacle of local festive displays such as the yearly religious pardons at St. Anne de Palud. But instead of understanding ritual festivities on the Brittany coast as simply the encounter of an outsider and his or her rural other, we can read these events as collective experiences that provided many ways to be both spectacle and spectator. This article departs from previous studies of art in Brittany in two significant ways: it considers the experience of local travel to coastal festivities (such as pardons) rather than taking tourism only to mean travel on a wider national or international scale. It also widens the focus of previous critical considerations of pardons in paintings to an expanded archive of visual and material culture from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Rather than equating rural life and representations of it with an outsider’s longings for an imaginary past, I employ methodologies drawn from feminist cultural criticism and the anthropology of material culture to view Breton pardons and their forms of visual culture as vibrant and ever changing performances and mediations of place and cultural identity. I consider these yearly public rituals as occasions that are marked as separate from ordinary daily routine yet that are also retrospectively integrated to everyday experience through their material and visual culture. Although paintings are central to my argument, this article takes a short detour away from concerns with artistic representation in order to engage with the bodily experience of the pardon, and then makes a return to the visual.
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    Journal article    
    Last Updated:
    6 years ago
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