Rewriting the Nation: Language Planning and Textbooks in French Primary Education During the Third Republic
Maillard, Celine L
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This research investigates the rewriting of the nation in France during the Third Republic and the role played by primary schools in the process of identity formation. Le Tour de la France par deux enfants, a textbook written in 1877 by Augustine FouillÃ©e, is our entry point to illustrate the strategies used in manufacturing French identity. We also analyze other texts: political speeches from the revolutionary era and from the Third Republic, as well as testimonies from both students and teachers written during the twentieth century. Bringing together close readings and research from various fields – history, linguistics, sociology, and philosophy – we use an interdisciplinary approach to shed light on language and national identity formation. Our findings underscore the connections between French primary education and national identity. Our analysis also contends that national identity in France during the Third Republic was an artificial construction and demonstrates how otherness was put in the service of populism. It argues that national identity came at the price of suppressed linguistic diversity and the humiliation of the speakers of minority languages. The study of language planning in France exposes the country’s use of glottophagy as another tool of imperialism, and reveals the conflicting relationship between regional and national identities. Our goal is to better understand the impact language planning, educational policies, and textbooks can have on their target audience, as well as the effects primary schools and French literacy had on students’ identity in France. By extrapolating from that study, it provides insight into the risks of imposing a single language in a country’s educational system, illustrates the consequences of double standards on individual and national identity, and warns us against assimilationist policies in twenty-first century schools and states.