Feminism, Distorted Reality And Friedrich Schiller

Jungfrau von Orleans cover

Subtitle: Enamoured after reading Schiller’s Die Jungfrau von Orleans… In German!

Note about book cover above. This is my first read of a Reclam e-book. I bought this on iBooks (2,49€) and am very pleased with how the publisher has taken the time to produce it, align it, make a joy to read on a screen. I have to admit, dear worst-reader, there’s probably no turning back for me. Although I’ll enjoy my physical book collection for the rest of my life, by slowly  and surely re-reading from it, here, it doesn’t look like I’m gonna miss buying real books anytime soon.

Onward worst-ho.

It’s been a long time, dear worst-reader. Probably waaaay too long. So I finally broke down the other day after reading this quote from The Hitch (Christopher Hitchens) and jumped on the good foot and bought me the Reclam e-book version of (one of) Schiller’s Meisterwerks. The English title of this book is: The Maid of Orleans. Although I recall dabbling in it (for quotes) years ago in its original German, I was never able to get through much of Schiller’s writing. What a shame, eh? So let me just put this out there, dear worst-reader.

Toms reclams
Part of my book collection includes these Reclams. Love them.

Now that I’ve finally read it in its original German, I’m totally enamoured with this play. In fact, the other night it almost had me in tears. But it wasn’t what I was reading that caused the tears. It was the fact that I was reading Schiller’s German. Yeah, baby. I was getting it. I was understanding it. I was, in fact, enjoying it so much, emotion began to over-take me. Every sentence, every stage direction, every scene and every act put me in fifteenth century France–while reading poetic German. Yeah, baby. This story became a piece of work that I didn’t want to finish. That is, I didn’t want it to end. And so. I skipped the last sentence of the final scene. That’s how I do it, don’t you know. That’s how I stay in a piece work that I never want to end. Also, since I’m getting the hang of reading these ebooks, especially on my ageing iPad Air, I’m really loving how I can so easily access my notes or highlighted text. Wait. Did I mention how flabbergasted I am with this play?

Joan of Arc according to worst-writer.

I’ve always been fascinated with story of Joan of Arc. Reason? Of all the things the Universal (Catholic) Church can do, it’s really, really good at twisting ancient stories, sewing mystery into historic events, and just flat out making $hit up in order to propagate an agenda. The story of Joan of Arc, which I believe to have been a real person, was one of its best über-lies. The only problem is, if the Church is so good at lying or making $hit up, what should one believe if one is interested in the truth? The wiki link above does provide a great deal of info regarding the story of Joan of Arc, including links to revisionist theories. But for worst-moi, something is missing.

Here a short list of what I consider acceptable worst-writer story-lines that could contain the truth about Joan of Arc:

  • The standard, church version (see link above). This is the canonised version of Joan of Arc where she’s a farm girl, potentially from a rich farming father, perhaps even somehow connected to royal blood, but through contact with God, she heeds the call to not just save France from England but also to unite long warring French tribes. In the end she is burned at the stake.
  • The conspiracy-theory. Until reading Schiller this was my favourite Joan of Arc theory. But be warned, it’s kinda out there! In it Joan was part of what remained of the royal blood of the Cathars. The Universal Church committed genocide against the Cathars between the eleventh and fourteenth century. Very few Cathars remained by the end of the fourteenth century. Of those who remained, they gained power and wealth in the chaos of the Hundred Years’ War. In fact, this theory goes so far as to claim Joan was one of the last members of the bloodline of Jesus Christ. JC, btw, is one of the founders of the Cathars as he wasn’t crucified but instead made his way to the coast of France… With his wife and family! I kinda dig the whole idear of the JC bloodline-theory because it fits well with the evil and violence committed by the Church in order to propagate their sick, authoritarian, patriarchal agenda including krapp like the inquisition, crusades, Galileo, etc. But enough of my nonsense, eh.
  • I finally have a new favourite version of Joan of Arc? Way to bring it on Fred Schiller!

The thing that really threw me for a loop in Schiller’s Virgin of Orleans (literal translation of the German title), is its feminism. Not well read in literature of the era, I’m curious if there is any other work from that era where females play such a prominent role–especially when it’s all about war. And not just any war but a war that French men couldn’t win. Indeed. Bring on the Feminines, baby.

The three feminists in the story are Joan, Isabeau (mother of the king) and Sorel (the kings wife). These chicks do some serious conniving. And that’s kinda cool. Also. Unlike the canonised version of the story, where Joan is arrested and tried for witchcraft, cross-dressing, and/or back-talking stupid, ugly white men–all perfect accusations by church authoritarian patriarchal mongers–Schiller instead focuses on her abilities as a warrior and a leader of men. He also makes it pretty clear how men either follow her or fear her. She is also a stedfast believer in God that in no way contradicts the dogma of the time. This leads to her fighting off charges of heresy (by cross-dressing?) but then she dies in battle thereby freeing France from the Engelländer. (Ain’t that a cool way to write it? Schiller, you da man!)

But here’s the real question that Schiller has got me asking: why would he write/create this version of an already established, canonised story at the beginning of the nineteenth century? Would it not have been more dramatic to have Joan burned at the stake? Would it not have been more titillating to portray her as a cross-dresser? Yet in Schiller’s life-time, this was his most popular play. Did his audience like this version better than the Church’s version?

Yeah. The greatest creator/perpetrator of reality distortion fields has to be religion. So much truth is out there and so much of it distorted. Why is that? Nomatter. Schiller definitely helped me sift through it (distortion) a bit more.

-Rant on

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