Histoire de rue: Les nuits révolutionnaires de rétif de la bretonne

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As part of his enormous literary production, eighteenth-century French writer Rétif de la Bretonne wrote a sprawling, sixteen-volume work called Les Nuits de Paris, a picturesque and moralistic description of life among the Parisian lower classes. Covering the years 1789-93, the last two volumes, often called Les Nuits révolutionnaires, are of particular interest since they narrate the author's daily walks in Paris during the French Revolution. In Rétif's text, written in a journalistic style, history appears only as it is played out, contemplated and interpreted on the street and by the street. The author argues that Rétif reshapes both the "témoignage" and the "promenade" genres by welding them together. The result is a strikingly modern understanding of the importance of reporting history-in-the-making at street level, as ordinary people experience it.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)83-98
Number of pages16
JournalSymposium - Quarterly Journal in Modern Literatures
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2008


  • French revolution
  • History
  • Les nuits révolutionnaires
  • Promenade
  • Rétif de la bretonne

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Literature and Literary Theory


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