In Heroes and Legends of Fin-de-Siecle France Venita Datta examines representations of fictional and real heroes in the boulevard theater and mass press during the fin de siecle (1880-1914), illuminating the role of gender in the construction of national identity during this formative period of French history. The popularity of the heroic cult at this time was in part the result of defeat in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, as well as a reaction to changing gender roles and collective guilt about the egoism and selfishness of modern consumer culture. The author analyzes representations of historical figures in the theater, focusing on Cyra de Bergerac, Napoleon and Joan of Arc, and examines the press coverage of heroes and anti-heroes in the Bazar de la Charite fire of 1897 and the Ullmo spy case of 1907.
Venita Datta, Professor of French at Wellesley College, where she has taught since 1991, is a specialist of French cultural and intellectual history of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. She is the author of Birth of a National Icon (1999) and has published articles in various journals, including French Historical Studies, the Journal of Contemporary History, Historical Reflections/Reflexions historiques, French Cultural Studies and CLIO: Histoire, Femmes et Societe. Professor Datta is a recipient of the Chateaubriand Fellowship, awarded by the French government.