Playing at Monarchy


Playing at Monarchy

Sport as Metaphor in Nineteenth-Century France

Corry Cropper

272 pages
6 illustrations


December 2008


$45.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

December 2008


$45.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

For centuries sports have been used to mask or to uncover important social and political problems, and there is no better example of this than France during the nineteenth century, when it changed from monarchy to empire to republic. Prior to the French Revolution, sports and games were the exclusive domain of the nobility. The revolution, however, challenged the notion of noble privilege, and leisure activities began spreading to all levels of society. Games either evolved from Old Regime spectacles into bourgeois pastimes, such as hunting, or died out altogether, as did trictrac. During this period, sports and games became the symbolic cultural battlefield of an emerging modern state.

Playing at Monarchy looks at the ways sports and games (tennis, fencing, bullfighting, chess, trictrac, hunting, and the Olympics) are metaphorically used to defend and subvert, to praise and mock both class and political power structures in nineteenth-century France. Corry Cropper examines what shaped these games of the nineteenth-century and how they appeared as allegory in French literature (in the fiction of Balzac, Mérimée, and Flaubert), and in newspapers, historical studies, and even game manuals. Throughout, he shows how the representation of play in all types of literature mirrors the most important social and political rifts in postrevolutionary France, while also serving as propaganda for competing political agendas. Though its focus is on France, Playing at Monarchy hints at the way these nineteenth-century developments inform perceptions of sport even today.

Author Bio

Corry Cropper is an associate professor of French studies at Brigham Young University and the author of several articles published in Nineteenth-Century French Studies, the French Review, and French Literature Series.


"Anyone interested in French history or the social role of sports in Europe should find Playing at Monarchy well worth the time. Like Robert Darnton's The Great Cat Massacre, Cropper investigates historical 'ways of thinking' with wit and whimsy-in prose congenial to a twenty-first century American audience."—Alex Shakespeare, Sports Literature Association

"As fine in analysis as it is broad in scope, Cropper's book, which explores the intersection of sport, culture, history, and literature, represents interdisciplinary studies at their very best."—Hope Christiansen, French Review

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations


Introduction: Mountain Stages and How-to Manuals

1. Paume Anyone? Representing Real Tennis after the Tennis Court Oath

2. The Spanish Bullfight in France: Goya, Gautier, and Mérimée

3. Trictrac and Chess as Models of Historical Discourse: Chance in the Works of Balzac and Mérimée

4. Of Rabbits and Kings: Hunting and Upward Mobility

5. Fencing and Aristocratic Resistance during the Third Republic

6. Olympic Restoration: Coubertin and the European Monarchy

Conclusion: Imitation and Resistance




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