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Title: The mediating of chanson: French identity and the myth Brel-Brassens-Ferré
Author(s): Cordier, Adeline
Supervisor(s): Murphy, David
Keywords: chanson
French identity
Issue Date: 2008
Publisher: University of Stirling
Abstract: Jacques Brel, Georges Brassens and Léo Ferré are three emblematic figures of post-war French song, who have been seen by critics, journalists, and the public, as the epitome of chanson, and more generally of ‘Frenchness’. The starting point of this study is the observation that the legacy of the systematic association of Brel, Brassens, and Ferré – crystallised in Cristiani’s 1969 interview and in Jean-Pierre Leloir’s photograph of the interview – has enjoyed a prosperity which seems disproportionate to the actual relevance of the comparison between the three artists. In 1969, the three singers were significant figures of French song, but they were not the only ones. Bringing them together was therefore a promise of media success, but it was in no way expected to start a legend; and yet, the myth of the interview has today taken over its reality, to the extent that the Comédie Française is presently, almost thirty years later, turning it into a play which was staged in May 2008. The photograph of the three singers smoking and drinking around a table is, today, and for a vast majority of people, the only thing that they know about the famous interview, if not about the singers. The lack of obvious grounds to justify the exclusivity of the trio suggests that there is more to it than a musical trinity. By taking into consideration the oral dimension of song, the socio-cultural context in which the trio emerged, and the mediation of their celebrity, this study aims to identify the factors of cultural and national identity that have held together the myth of the trio since its creation. Besides shedding new light on the significance of the three artists individually, this study proposes to demonstrate that each singer embodies qualities with which the French people likes to be associated, and that the trio Brel-Brassens-Ferré can therefore be seen as an arbitrary sketch of a certain ‘Frenchness’. In particular, this thesis focuses on the trio illustrating the popular representation of a key issue of French national identity: the paradoxical aspiration to both revolution and the status quo. By taking the cultural icon ‘Brel-Brassens-Ferré’ as a case study through which to address questions of popular and national identity, this study contributes to cultural studies in two different ways. Firstly, through theorising the implications of the oral dimension of songs, it demonstrates the necessity of taking into consideration factors such as performance, the media, and the socio-historical context, when studying artists as societal phenomena. Secondly, it evidences the importance of the study of forms of popular culture, such as iconic singers or music, when investigating the ways in which a society perceives its own national identity.
Type: Thesis or Dissertation
Affiliation: School of Arts and Humanities
Literature and Languages

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