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Lecture 3 Crowd Psychology and the Fin-de-siècle.

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1 Lecture 3 Crowd Psychology and the Fin-de-siècle

2 Gustave Le Bon La Psychologie des Foules (1895) Une civilisation implique des règles fixes, une discipline, le passage de linstinctif au rationnel, la prévoyance de lavenir, un degré élevé de culture, conditions totalement inaccessibles aux foules elles- mêmes. Par leur puissance uniquement destructif, elles agissent comme ces microbes qui activent la dissolution des corps débilités ou des cadavres.

3 Lecture plan A. The scientific study of society B. The cult of decadence and the fin-de-siècle C. Case studies: Hippolyte Taine, Gustave Le Bon

4 The scientific study of society The idea of sciences morales et politiques began to be developed in France a few decades before the Revolution During the Revolution, these moral and political sciences received official recognition through their representation in the Institut de France. In 1795, the new Académie des Sciences Morales et Politiques ranked just under the Académie des Sciences. This disappeared under Napoleons reorganization in 1803, but was reestablished in the early 1830s.

5 The backward state of the moral (human) sciences can be remedied by applying to them the methods of physical science, duly extended and generalized. John Stuart Mill (1843) In German, the moral sciences were referred to as Geisteswissenschaften

6 Positivism Positivism: Any philosophical system that confines itself to the data of experience, excludes a priori or metaphysical explanations, and emphasizes the achievements of science. Strongly associated (in the French context) with Claude Bernard (Introduction à lEtude de la Médecine Expérimentale) and Auguste Comte

7 Claude Bernard and Auguste Comte

8 Auguste Comte Believed in a hierarchy of sciences: mathematics came lowest, then astronomy, physics, chemistry, physiology, and finally sociology, the most advanced of all. Outlined three rules for the positivistic study of society: to confine ones study to observable externals; to use rigorous methods, and to abstain from moral judgements

9 Statistics and society A handful of censuses had been conducted in the mid to late eighteenth century, e.g. in Sweden (1749) and the USA (1790). Many European countries established census offices in the 1830s, and provide invaluable records of births, deaths, occupations etc. In France, the Statistical Society of Paris was set up in 1860.

10 Psychology In the emergence of experimental psychology, German psychologists were particularly influential, e.g. the psycho-physicist Gustav Theodor Fechner ( ), and Wilhelm Wundt ( ), who created a new kind of scientific laboratory intended to study reaction times and thought processes. Later, in the 1890s, Sigmund Freud in Vienna began to use a case study approach to develop methods of psycho-analysis, exploring aspects of the personality encoded in the subconscious.

11 Emile Zola and Paul Bourget

12 Paul Bourget and the scientific approach to literature Si derrière la Science il y a méthode, derrière la méthode il y a quelque chose encore. Ce quelque chose, qui constitue lessence même de la recherche expérimentale, cest le fait. Essais de Psychologie Contemporaine (Paris, Librairie Plon, 1899) Notre observation à nous ne consiste pas uniquement à noter les faits. Nous en induisons les conséquences, et nous poussons sans cesse, dans nos hypothèses, jusquau terme de leur logique… ( Le Démon de Midi )

13 A decadent France? Defeat by Prussia sparked off fears of national decadence Pamphlets of the 1870s expressed this very clearly, with titles like La Fin du monde Latin, Des Causes de la décadence française and République ou décadence? Fears of decadence were also associated with the city; with urban anonymity, a concentrated population of workers but also of vagrants and the unemployed, concerns about poor hygiene in living and working conditions and about the difficulty of identifying and controlling criminal elements.

14 A literary cult of decadence In Joris-Karl Huysmans A Rebours (1884), the hero despairs of modern life and creates an artificial world for himself. The novel was described by one critic as «un véritable festival dexcentricités, dextravagances, de folies inquiétantes». First referred to by Théophile Gautier in his study of Baudelaires poetry in 1869 the idea of decadence in literature was later adopted by Verlaine, and by 1882 Jules Laforgue was using the term to describe many young poets of the day.

15 Bourget on decadence « Si les citoyens dune décadence sont inférieurs comme ouvriers de la grandeur du pays, ne sont- ils pas très supérieurs comme artistes de lintérieur de leur ame? » – Essais de Psychologie Contemporaine (1883)

16 Hippolyte Taine & Gustave Le Bon

17 Taine on the crowd « Une puissance formidable, destructive et vague, sur laquelle nulle main na de prise, et qui, avec sa mère, la Liberté aboyante et monstrueuse, siège au seuil de la Révolution.» Les Origines de la France, Vol. I, p.79

18 Le Bon on the crowd Connaître lart dimpressioner limagination des foules, cest connaître lart de les gouverner (La Psychologie ds Foules, 1895)


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