Date of Award

2005

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

French

Advisor

Raymond Pelletier

Second Committee Member

Kathryn Slott

Third Committee Member

Susan Pinette

Abstract

This thesis project investigates the experiences and thoughts of the prolific French writer and diplomat Paul Claudel in relation to World War I (WWI). This abstract will address the scope and results of this research, the methods used, and will make recommendations for further investigation of the topic. Scope. This research examines Claudel's activities during WWI and his beliefs about that war. Although his concrete contributions to the war effort are many, the primary focus of this project is on his thoughts and how they were translated into his poetry. Methods. The cornerstone of this study was Claudel's Journal and his poetry. Specifically, it concentrates on his journal entries from the beginning of the 2oth century until the end of the war and on his Poemes de Guerre and the Feuilles de Saints. The research for this thesis included invaluable visits wi,th the author's family and with erudite professionals devoted to the study of Claudel's life and work. These visits took place in France during a seven-month research tour at the Catholic University of Lyon. A meeting with Madame Renee Nantet, his daughter, at the Archives de Paul Claudel in Paris was one of the highlights and groundbreaking events of this project. In deciphering his vision and thoughts, it was necessary to analyze his life from the beginning. There were many clues that his past experiences came strongly into play with the complexities of violence and war. Much of this revolves around the profound impact of his conversion to Catholicism. Results. Claudel often bases his reasons for the war, its nature and its profound effect on man on spiritual grounds. Long before WWI broke out, he was fighting German philosophical thought and Protestantism, which he considered the backbone to Germany's bellicosity. As a recognized diplomat and renowned poet and playwright, he had transcribed his personal and national sentiments about war onto paper. He was deeply involved in strategic propaganda operations during WWI. He lived the road to war as a diplomat in Germany years before the summer of 1914. As a fervent Catholic, Claudel always saw himself in the trenches battling for truth and to overcome sin. Recommendations and Conclusions. Becoming more intimate with Claudel's thoughts and his idealism about of truth as he sees it, would bring greater understanding to his work. His production revolves around tension and the struggle for truth. Two prominent saints of the Catholic church had a great influence on the formulation of his views: Saints Augustine and Thomas. Sin and the constant struggle to achieve sanctity are Claudel's trademarks. The battles that he describes are as personal as they are collective (i.e., pangermanism, nazism). For Claudel, WWI was the manifestation of a spiritual war waged in philosophical terms against irreligiousness which was well under way years before the summer of 1914.

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