French Revolution: “September Massacre”

History Channel documentary on the French Revolution, above

Today in 1792 the September Massacres of the French Revolution began as part of the escalating mob violence that had increased all summer.  By the time it was done, half the prison  population of Paris had been executed.  The clergy in particular was prone to sporadic attacks, with a number of Catholic bishops murdered.

For Frye, this violent political shift represented a radical shift in the social mythology of authority:

The cosmos of authority lingered until the eighteenth century, although of its two pillars, the chain of being and the Ptolemaic universe, the latter was in ruins by Isaac Newton’s time.  The chain of being was still in place for Pope early in the eighteenth century, but Voltaire was very doubtful about the echelle de l’infiniti, which he recognized to be a facade for the authority of the status quo.  And under the hammer blows of the American Revolution, the French Revolution, and the Industrial Revolution, the ladder as the spatial metaphor for the axis mundi, and as a cosmic vision guaranteeing the birthright of established authority, finally disappeared. (CW 4, 124)

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