Neo-Traditionalist Fantasies: Colonialism, Modernism, and Fascism in Greater France 1870-1962
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Neo-traditionalism was a classicist and colonialist project for regenerating the nation, inaugurated by French avant-garde intellectuals in the fin-de-siècle. Most were formerly Symbolists. They wanted to regenerate a dissolute French population employing new fantasies of identity which would overcome the fragmentation of French culture in the era of modern imperialism. The neo-traditionalist world-view was an alchemy of conflicting cultural concerns which defined the era. These intellectuals hoped that, according to their specific re-arrangement of these concerns, they would redefine and regenerate France itself. Neo-traditionalism was an aesthetic-political project which was conservative and revolutionary, colonial and metropolitan, traditional and avant-garde. This dissertation is a history of this specific set of ideas and strategies which occupies an uneasy position at the intersection of several conventional historical topics: modernism, fascism, and colonialism. Neo-traditionalism was none of these per se, and yet touched upon all of these topics. This is not a history of France quarantined from its overseas territories, but a history of France that includes colonial Algeria as it was seen by most French contemporaries: an integral and legal part of territorial France. This study also focuses on the lives of two neo-traditionalist intellectuals, Louis Bertrand and Albert Camus, whose works helped define and redefine these shared ideas over time, as they moved across the colonial threshold between France and Algeria, and as they sought to iii redefine each society in the image of the other. Bertrand was the founder, almost sui generis, of the conventions of settler literature in the colony. He was also one of the most pro-Nazi French intellectual s of the twentieth century. Camus still remains the most celebrated writer of that settler literature, as well as being almost equally as certain the most famous anti-fascist French intellectual of the twentieth century. There is much that distinguishes their lives and work from one another, but there is also a great deal that they share. One was fascist, the other was anti-fascist. But they shared particular visions of society that are only understood in exploring the intellectual subcultures which shaped their world-view on either side of the Mediterranean: a neo-traditionalist world-view.