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Visions of the Maid

Visions of the Maid: Joan of Arc in American Film and Culture

Robin Blaetz
Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 304
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt6wrj23
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  • Book Info
    Visions of the Maid
    Book Description:

    Representations of Joan of Arc have been used in the United States for the past two hundred years, appearing in advertising, cartoons, popular song, art, criticism, and propaganda. The presence of the fifteenth-century French heroine in the cinema is particularly intriguing in relation to the role of women during wartime. Robin Blaetz argues that a mythic Joan of Arc was used during the First World War to cast a medieval glow over an unpopular war, but that she only appeared after the Second World War to encourage women to abandon their wartime jobs and return to the home.

    In Visions of the Maid, Blaetz examines three pivotal films-Cecil B. DeMille's 1916 Joan the Woman, Victor Fleming's 1948 Joan of Arc, and Otto Preminger's 1957 Saint Joan-as well as addressing a broad array of popular culture references and every other film about the heroine made or distributed in the United States. Blaetz is particularly concerned with issues of gender and the ways in which Joan of Arc's androgyny, virginity, and sacrificial victimhood were evoked in relation to the evolving roles of women during war throughout the twentieth century.

    eISBN: 978-0-8139-2195-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. viii-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    The crux of the story of Joan of Arc is embodied in her allegiance to her visions of Saints Catherine, Margaret, and Michael. Joan claimed that she visualized and communicated with her saints for five years before she persuaded the dauphin of France to give her control over his army in 1429. While Joan called the presence of the saints her “voices,” the Roman Catholic Church considered her claim of direct access to the divine to be heresy. Although Joan recovered Orléans and defeated the English, ending the Hundred Years’ War and creating France as a nation, she allowed herself...

  7. 1 Joan of Arc in America, 1911–1920
    (pp. 13-46)

    In the earliest years of the twentieth century, the widespread tendency to find advantage by associating one’s agenda with Joan of Arc coincided with both the First World War and the birth of the mass-produced image. The years before and during the First World War were marked by the rise of consumerism, in which religious and other traditional iconography was appropriated by advertising. This disorienting transformation, in which cultural authority seemed to dissipate with each ephemeral image, was facilitated by the technical refinement of photography and various printing methods during the late nineteenth century. Not coincidentally, the advent of this...

  8. 2 “Joan of Arc Saved France, Women of America Save Your Country”: Cecil B. DeMille’s Joan the Woman, 1916
    (pp. 47-64)

    The decade that began just before the First World War and ended with the events surrounding Joan’s canonization in 1920 was filled with images of Joan of Arc. Out of the numerous texts and images that appeared in the United States in particular, two essays in magazines that were popular in 1911 suggest the nature of Joan’s significance in the prewar era. InHarper’s Weekly,an article titled “A Jeanne d’Arc Pilgrimage by Automobile” offers a sentimental version of the American author’s journey through France and a survey of Joan’s life story. As the author, Charles Johnston, drives through the...

  9. 3 The Demise of Joan of Arc
    (pp. 65-80)

    One of the more unusual Joan of Arc documents born of the First World War is a short, quirky book that was apparently self-published in 1926 by one William Paul Yancey titledThe Soldier Virgin of France: A Message of World Peace by a Soldier of the A.E.F.Yancey’s conclusion that Joan of Arc’s highest accomplishment was to become a “sacred torch,” as opposed to winning battles, is characteristic of a narrowing of the heroine’s significance in relation to war in the United States after World War I. With the disillusionment that followed the end of the war, the virgin...

  10. 4 Joan of Arc between the Wars
    (pp. 81-94)

    The propaganda images of strong, competent women that had been used for recruitment during the First World War had largely disappeared by 1920. The freedom of the New Woman, embodied by Clara Bow, known as the “It” girl, who starred inWings,or by Joan of Arc herself, had been more a media phenomenon than a reality. Although women had won the right to vote in 1920, the modern woman of the next decade did not effect a great deal of political change. The old upper-class model of femininity prevailed as women aspired to be intelligent, educated, and progressive, as...

  11. 5 The War Years: Between Us Girls, Joan of Paris, and Joan of Ozark
    (pp. 95-117)

    The heightened technological sophistication and the larger scale of the Second World War guaranteed that a medieval icon such as Joan of Arc would have to undergo a major transformation in order to serve as a tool of propaganda. After the First World War, Americans had become comfortable with technology and come to believe that it was safely harnessed and integral to the American way of life. In this age of the home appliance, women were recruited for war work with posters reassuring them that industrial machinery was as easily mastered as the vacuum cleaner and sewing machine.¹ The sophisticated...

  12. 6 The Return of the Maid: The Miracle of the Bells and Joan of Arc
    (pp. 118-139)

    In 1948 the first major studio film about Joan of Arc was made in the United States since the release of Cecil B. DeMille’sJoan the Womanin 1916. When Victor Fleming started production onJoan of Arcfor Sierra Pictures, he was in competition with the Joan of Arc projects thatVarietyreported to have been in progress at all the major studios in 1946.¹ David O. Selznick had already found his Joan in Jennifer Jones and had commissioned a script by Ben Hecht for a film that was never made.² What could explain this sudden surge of interest...

  13. 7 Looking for Joan of Arc: Hedy Lamarr in The Story of Mankind and Jean Seberg in Saint Joan
    (pp. 140-168)

    It is impossible to know whether images of Joan of Arc helped in any way to return women to their homes after the Second World War by making them feel heroic about sacrificing their independence. But it is clear that many women did quit their jobs.¹ Historians, particularly those working with women’s history, continue to investigate how women’s roles could have expanded and contracted so drastically in so short a time without confusing people and challenging deep-seated attitudes about gender and the sexual division of labor. Some argue that the trauma of the Depression followed by that of the Second...

  14. 8 Conclusions: The Vietnam War and Afterward
    (pp. 169-182)

    Otto Preminger’sSaint Joanof 1957 was the last feature film about Joan of Arc made in the United States in the twentieth century.¹ In view of the part Joan of Arc has played in the discourse of women and war throughout the century, the question arises: How does she figure in the Vietnam War? The closest approximation to an armored woman in the cinema of that war is Jane Fonda wearing a half-transparent breastplate in Roger Vadim’s 1968 semipornographic science fiction fantasyBarbarella.Before 1978 almost no films were made about Vietnam, with the exception of John Wayne’sGreen...

  15. Appendix: Visions of the Maid, 1429–1895
    (pp. 183-206)
  16. Notes
    (pp. 207-230)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 231-248)
  18. Filmography
    (pp. 249-262)
  19. Index of Films
    (pp. 263-265)
  20. Index of Subjects and Names
    (pp. 266-280)
  21. Back Matter
    (pp. 281-281)