HomeCriminal lament ballads in France after 1870: archiving, analysis and promotion of a little-known corpus

HomeCriminal lament ballads in France after 1870: archiving, analysis and promotion of a little-known corpus

Criminal lament ballads in France after 1870: archiving, analysis and promotion of a little-known corpus

Les complaintes criminelles en France après 1870 : inventaire, problématisation, valorisation d’un corpus méconnu

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Published on Tuesday, October 16, 2018 by Anastasia Giardinelli

Summary

The criminal lament ballad – in the strict sense of the term, a sung text narrating for informational or moral purposes the details of an authentic criminal case – has a long history, running from 16th century pieces to the “bloody newssheets” of the early 19th century. Saved from oblivion by collectors or scholars, these pieces have nevertheless been too little studied. The aim of this conference is to set up the foundations for a new pluridisciplinary approach to the criminal lament ballads, which can be considered as additional sources for the exploration of the history of crime and punishment, the history of popular literature, of ancestors of “alternative” media, or the history of popular musical tastes.

Announcement

Presentation

The criminal lament ballad – in the strict sense of the term, a sung text narrating for informational or moral purposes the details of an authentic criminal case – has a long history, running from 16th century pieces to the “bloody newssheets” of the early 19th century. Saved from oblivion by collectors or scholars, these pieces have nevertheless been too little studied.

There are three generations of recent historiography. Jean-Pierre Seguin, the pioneer, shed light on these laments at the beginning of the 1960s; then, in the 1980s, particularly in Brittany, research on broadsheet ballads met with considerable success. Finally, the recent online publication of the database Criminal lament ballads 1870-1940 on the site of Criminocorpus has opened up a new area of work, aiming at analysing the final developments in the form, from the beginnings of the Third French Republic in 1870 to the Second World War.

The aim of this conference is to set up the foundations for a new pluridisciplinary approach to the criminal lament ballads, which can be considered as additional sources for the exploration of the history of crime and punishment, the history of popular literature, of ancestors of “alternative” media, or the history of popular musical tastes.

Contributions might relate to the following themes and questions:

  1. Defining the corpus

The above definition of the criminal lament is open to questioning. One might wish to extend the corpus beyond pieces dealing with crimes in the strict legal sense, to include songs about events which were perceived to be crimes. Certain industrial catastrophes, or political corruption scandals might be included, as might some activist songs, in particular anarchist ones.

  1. Inventory and archiving in public collections.

The sorting, archiving and cataloguing of ephemeral documents is very diverse. Some are found in home-made songbooks, others in scholarly collections, or attached to musical archives. Finding them can be a long job. Conference papers might wish to explore the logic which guided their organization and archiving, or the question of how the pieces might be better made available in a more accessible form.

  1. The specificity of the laments as a medium

Because they are sung texts, the laments enter into particular relations with social networks, and are circulated as parts of repertoires, which may be published or shared privately, and which may be available as broadsheets or in songbooks. The laments follow then popular tastes in these matters. Surely the changes in the laments illustrate the types of repertoires and musical practices which were best-loved at a given time, whether in the street or in the “caf’conc” musical cafés. Two approaches are well worth exploring. Firstly, the musicological study of the repertoire (choice of tunes, changes in formal structures of the laments and so on), and secondly the actual performance contexts in which the laments were sung, both in the past and today.

  1. The links of laments with images

Among all the semantic codes used in the newssheet form, a true ancestor of audio-visual media, the pictorial aspects complete, paraphrase and illustrate the lament. Whether woodcuts, prints or photographs, the images are surely, through their creativity and intertextuality, a key to the understanding of the reception of a song which can hardly be separated from its visual aspects

  1. Linguistic and literary aspects of the lament.

The nature of the language used is relatively ambiguous. The corpus is very much heterogeneous in this aspect: it includes Parisian songsters adept at double entendre, coded language and harsh humour, but also travelling singers using approximate syntax, a spoken register of language, trying to take up codes of writing rather sophisticated for them. It would also be interesting to explore the use of regional languages and dialects in the laments in order to measure the importance of the phenomenon, and the extent of local usage and appropriation.

  1. The editorial approach

There is a severe lack of editorial detail on criminal laments. Who wrote them? Who published them and when? Who sold them, and how was production and circulation organized informally of these pieces, which naturally do not respect the rules of deposit in copyright libraries?

  1. The international dimension

Across the world, from Brazil to India, there are examples of this genre, which is recognized as still being active and productive today. Studies from other parts of the world, from Murder Ballads to the literature of Cordel would be most valuable to us for purposes of comparison.

The conference will aim to be a time for exchanges of views and for drawing up a “state of the art” on the matter. It will bring together participants from various professions. These will include scholars working on the history of justice, history of the media, history of publishing, or history of art, as well as musicologists, librarians, archivists and so on.We will hope to shed more light on these modest, discreet and sometimes even discredited sources, which present far more than anecdotal interest.

Submission Guidelines

Proposals must be submitted

before the 30th November 2018

to redaction@criminocorpus.org

They should include a title, a brief summary in 1 000 signs, and a short biographical note (500 signs). The Scientific committee will make its selection in december 2018. The papers selected may be given in French or in English.

Organisation 

  • Jean-François Maxou HEINTZEN (CLAMOR, CNRS-ministry of justice)
  • Sophie VICTORIEN (CLAMOR, CNRS-ministry of justice)

Scientific committee

  • Olivier Belin (université de Cergy-Pontoise)
  • Romain Benini (université Paris-Sorbonne)
  • Jean-Claude Farcy (CLAMOR, CNRS-ministère de la justice)
  • Jean-François Maxou HEINTZEN (CLAMOR, CNRS-ministère de la justice)
  • Sophie-Anne Leterrier (université d’Artois)
  • Gaetano Manfredonia (Bibliothèque de Corrèze)
  • Jean-Yves Mollier (université de Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines)
  • John MULLEN (université de Rouen)
  • Philippe Nieto  (Archives nationales de France)
  • Philippe ORIOL (Cesacom)
  • Anne PASQUIGNON  (BnF)
  • Marc RENNEVILLE (CLAMOR, CNRS-ministère de la justice)
  • Sophie VICTORIEN (CLAMOR, CNRS-ministère de la justice)

Partners

  • CLAMOR
  • CRIMINOCORPUS
  • French National Library

Places

  • Archives nationales 59 Rue Guynemer
    Paris, France (75)
  • BnF site François Mitterrand 25 rue Émile Durkheim (marches) ou avenue de France (de plain-pied) 75013 Paris
    Pierrefitte-sur-Seine, France (93383)

Date(s)

  • Friday, November 30, 2018

Keywords

  • complaintes criminelles, histoire de la justice, musique, chansons, édition, canards criminels, faits-divers, affaires criminelles

Contact(s)

  • Sophie Victorien
    courriel : sophie [dot] victorien [at] cnrs [dot] fr
  • Jean-François Heintzen
    courriel : maxou [dot] heintzen [at] orange [dot] fr

Information source

  • Sophie Victorien
    courriel : sophie [dot] victorien [at] cnrs [dot] fr

To cite this announcement

« Criminal lament ballads in France after 1870: archiving, analysis and promotion of a little-known corpus », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Tuesday, October 16, 2018, https://calenda.org/487841

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