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Joan of Arc: The Image of Female Heroism [Paperback]

Marina Warner
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

21 Nov 1991
Set against the time in which she lived and against the successive historical and cultural climates that have used her image for their own ends, Joan of Arc is depicted here as a "heroine for all seasons". The author's other books include "Alone of All Her Sex" and "Monuments and Maidens".

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New edition edition (21 Nov 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099884208
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099884200
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 12.4 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 141,086 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"Elegantly written, thoughtful (as one would expect from the author of "Alone of All Her Sex), imaginative, sensitive. Warner ranges through iconographic, allegorical, literary, dramatic, operatic, cinematographic, linguistic, historical, biographical, and political evidence to present a history of Joan and of her subsequent representations."--"Choice --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Marina Warner is a historian and novelist; among her books are No Go the Bogeyman: Scaring, Lulling, and Making Mock (1998), From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers (1995), and Alone of All Her Sex: The Myth and the Cult of the Virgin Mary (1983). She lives in London. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Heroine for All Seasons 31 Aug 2007
By Nicholas Casley TOP 500 REVIEWER
This book deserves the praise that was piled upon it when it was first published in 1981. This is not a formal biography of Joan of Arc, and yet its content contains all the salient issues arising in her short life and more. That "and more" is Marina Warner's critique of Joan's life and her reception by both contemporaries and history. The subtitle of the book - "The Image of Female Heroism" - might make it appear as a largely feminist critique. Not so! It is more rounded and comprehensive than such a narrow description portrays.

The book is split into two parts, and its contents might be well-grasped by the titles of the chapters contained therein. The first part details Joan's reception in her own life and times, with chapters on Joan as the virgin Maid of France; Joan as Prophet; Joan as Harlot of the Armagnacs; Joan as Heretic; Joan as the Ideal Androgyne; and Joan as Knight. In addition there are chapters on the Divided Realm of France as well as the King and his Crown.

The second part treats Joan's reputation after her death all the way up to the twentieth century. So we have chapters on her Vindication; Joan as Amazon; Joan as the Personification of Virtue; Joan perceived as Child of Nature; Joan as Saint or Patriot?

The book is wide-ranging, crossing many disciplines and many timelines. It is recommended that the reader have at least some knowledge of her life in order to fully appreciate the multiple strands of thought offered by Marina Warner on this 'heroine for all seasons'.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The ultimate study of Joan of Arc 11 Jan 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book has long been acknowledged as a classic of scolarly investigations into the life, history and myth of Joan of Arc. Marina Warner is a cultural historian and the strength of this book is in her realism, depth and understandinga corss multiple disciplines. We do not just get a potted chart of Joan's achievements - these are placed in their rightful context: medieval history, French society, the mythology of women, classical imagery, religious inspiration and so on. It is typical of Warner's erudition and brilliant writing style that, despite the wealth of learning and research on display, this book could be read, understood and enjoyed by anyone interested in this or any of the aforementioned related subjects. An absolute triumph... now goa nd read Warner on fairytales (From The Beast To The Blonde), monuments (Monuments and Maidens) and a host of the other diverse topics she is interested in and an expert on!
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Woman inside the Armour 4 Oct 2003
Marina Warner writes a fine narrative, a solid biography with depth and emotion which also explores the female and the feminist aspects of Joan. Joan is a 15th century heroine and national icon, but she is also a woman subject to complex exploitation and manipulation by male society. It is an engaging and enthralling work.
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Amazon.com: 2.7 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
53 of 60 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Only A Vague Resemblance to Joan's History 31 Oct 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
As a researcher who has done work on this subject, I tend to be baffled by the popularity of books such as this one. On the plus side, and to be fair, the author at least bothered to read some of the more reliable documents (such as the Rehabilitation transcript, Joan's surviving letters, etc) rather than merely the Condemnation transcript; but unfortunately the author didn't seem to pay much attention to the more reliable documents. Yet again, we have here a modern author who credulously accepts many of the accusations made by Joan's enemies while passing over the larger amount of evidence which soundly debunks those accusations, while mixing in a hefty dose of radical politics and speculation, plus page after page in which the text wanders through ancient legends and other such topics to the point that Joan herself is often obscured entirely. A good example of this is the "Ideal Androgyne" chapter, which ignores the extensive testimony from the Rehabilitation transcript: i.e., two of the men who escorted her to Chinon said that they were the ones who first brought up the subject of dressing her in soldiers' clothing (as was standard procedure when bringing a woman through dangerous territory), and several of the clergy who took part in her trial testified that she clung to this clothing and kept her pants and tunic "firmly laced and tied" (i.e., the pants were kept fastened to the tunic so they couldn't be forcibly pulled off) because she had been subjected to attempted rape at the hands of her guards and therefore was afraid of "being violated in the night", to quote one witness. To a scholar of the medieval period none of this comes as a surprise: it was common for women to adopt such clothing for their own defense, and medieval theologians - including St. Thomas Aquinas himself - had ruled that such conduct was permissible if it was being done out of necessity (the Church only condemned the practice if it was done for other reasons, a distinction which Joan's accusers deliberately ignored, as do many modern authors). Despite the author's claims to the contrary, this subject was in fact dealt with at the Rehabilitation, and in fact the Inquisitor devoted an entire section - Chapter 6 of his "Recollectio" - to that subject, and exonerated her of any wrongdoing on that front. He also ruled that her voices were not suspect (despite the author's claims to the contrary), and in fact declared her a martyr ("...for in very truth she always had good reason to trust in her apparitions, for they delivered her, just as they promised, from the prison of the body through martyrdom and a great victory of patience.") Warner's book replaces much of this evidence with speculation, endless political rhetoric, and modern philosophies which have nothing whatsoever to do with 15th century history.
On the point about Régine Pernoud: the charge that Pernoud was a hopeless fan of Charles VII who omitted to mention the letter about the siege of Paris is patently false: the entire text of that letter is included (both in the original language and in translation) in Pernoud's book "Joan of Arc: Her Story" [called simply "Jeanne d'Arc" in the French version], and many of her books contain scathing criticisms of Charles VII. Scholars consider Pernoud to have been one of the best authors on this subject because she was accurate, thorough, and honest in her presentation of the evidence, which is not something that can be said about the book currently under review. And there lies the crux of the issue: historical writing is supposed to be based upon documented evidence, properly analyzed in light of the circumstances of the time period, rather than a mishmash of modern-day politics superimposed upon historical figures and events. This book falls into the latter category, unfortunately.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Begging to Differ 23 Nov 2005
By Jeanette Romee - Published on Amazon.com
One wonders by what process a review gets chosen for featured status. I must concur with the unfavorable reviews. Warner treats the condemnation trial transcript as a privileged text. She accords it all the authority of a definitive verdict from an impartial court. It was neither.

It is unsound scholarship to attempt an uncritical reading of any trial whose conviction was later overturned on appeal. Abundant evidence confirms that the original verdict was rigged and that parts of its transcript were falsified. Warner barely acknowledges the retrial and offers little pretext for disregarding it. This is the reverse of proper analysis.

If the twenty-five year gap between trials is an excuse for Warner's preference, then consistency demands that Warner accord still higher value to surviving letters from Joan of Arc's own lifetime. She is not consistent.

A newcomer to Joan of Arc biography would do far better with Regine Pernoud's "Joan of Arc by Herself and Her Witnesses." Pernoud's approach is to offer the reader relevant excerpts from original historic documents. Organized thematically, Pernoud summarizes leading debates and invites readers to reach their own conclusions. The work is admirably impartial. Pernoud is perhaps the most respected twentieth century scholar of Joan of Arc.
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not recommended. 28 Feb 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
This book appears to follow the currently trendy practice of piling up all of the collected dead wood of past opinions while largely ignoring the evidence - evidence which is exhaustive and indisputable in the case of Joan of Arc. We know that she was not a 'rebel against the Church' - that was proven by the Inquisition at the Rehabilitation Trial in the 1450s (the presiding Inquisitor at this trial described her as a martyr for the Catholic faith, for heaven's sake). We know that she wore male clothing only to protect herself against sexual abuse - that was also proven by the testimony at the retrial, and echoed at many points in Joan's own testimony at the Condemnation Trial in 1431. Her political opponents tried to claim otherwise, as does Marina Warner; but they should have known better than that.
Ironically, the prologue tells us that "unlike a fictional character, she does not belong to the mind of a writer... She has objective reality". Quite true. So why not let that objective reality shine forth through the fog of opinion, bias, and propaganda? All I can say is: there are other authors who are far more honest with the facts.
19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars fair play and the interpretation of a legend 10 April 2000
By Julia Walker - Published on Amazon.com
Warner's book has more archival material and historical background detail than any other single work in this price-range or level of reader-access. Yes, Warner also presents opinions, as scholar/critics tend to do.
If, however, you turn to Regine Pernoud for an "unbiased" version of Joan's life -- whatever that might be -- you are on much more dangerous ground. Pernoud conveys opinion by omission; if a document is at odds with her reading of Joan's life or actions, she simply ignores it, leaving it unmentioned. An example of this is a crucial letter Joan dictated on the necessity of taking Paris. Yes, Pernoud IS French (or rather, she was), and she writes as though she has on-line access to 15th-century feelings and personal opinions -- a big problem, in my view. But Pernoud's relentlessly pro-Charles interpretation of events is much more distorting and misleading than anything generated by Warner's British feminism, which is fairly presented as the lense through which the material will be viewed.
If you want another good book on Joan, try Charles Wood's study of Joan and Richard II.
No one scholar is going to write a book which satisfies everyone on such a complex figure. But Warner is a good place to start reading and/or thinking about Joan of Arc.
18 of 23 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Warner's "Joan of Arc..." 7 Aug 2002
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
It's curious to see that the author noted Regine Pernoud in the Acknowledgments, given that Pernoud opposed the fraudulent claims about Joan that this book promotes. Here's a summary of merely a few such errors.
- While the author at least admits that Joan was put on trial by the English and Burgundians, she nevertheless glosses over the implications of this and does little more than repeat the 'spin' which Joan's enemies placed on the theological matters under debate. A main theme is the notion that since Joan saw visions "apprehensible to the human senses" she would automatically be guilty of a grave offense in the pre-Renaissance era, which is truly ironic: in the Bible itself, there are many cases of angels not only manifesting themselves in corporeal form (e.g., the appearance of Gabriel to Mary), but in fact some such appearances were sufficiently physical as to be seen by many people (such as the angel(s) who appeared at Christ's empty tomb). To accept this book's argument you'd have to claim that the medieval Church viewed the Bible itself as heretical. Similarly, it is claimed that Joan was guilty for never telling the clergy about her visions - despite the patent fact that she had gained approval from the clergy at Poitiers, from the Archbishop of Embrun, from Jean Gerson, and so on, some of which Warner herself admits.
Warner uses much the same distortion with regards to La Pierronne, who was killed by a similar pro-English group from the University of Paris after she had dared to say that Joan was a good Catholic. No "witchcraft" charges were filed against her: the only thing they could come up with was the absurd notion that she was guilty of blasphemy for saying that she saw God clothed in a white robe and red tunic (as opposed to what, one wonders?) Warner never seems to consider that the charges in such partisan trials might be nothing but bunk promoted by the opposing faction, devoid of any valid theological basis.
On a final note on this subject: Warner at least admits that Joan had threatened to lead a crusading army against a heretical group called the Hussites, but merely sees this as another chance to heap more empty criticism on Joan. This time the charge is "intolerance", strangely ignoring a few obvious points: 1) far from being docile theologians who merely held dissident views, the Hussites were a military faction which had recently gone on a savage rampage across large swaths of the Holy Roman Empire, destroying many hundreds of villages. To label her "intolerant" for being willing to lead an army against such a group is either deliberately unfair sniping, or a clear sign of ignorance about the nature of the Hussites. 2) You would think that the author would at least possess the fairness to admit that if Joan wanted to lead a crusading army against heretics, she could hardly be a heretic herself.
- In the chapter "Ideal Androgyne", Warner again makes copious use of the propaganda spooled out by Joan's enemies while ignoring the eyewitness accounts of those who had actually known her - not only at the Rehabilitation but also in private letters and memoirs written by her soldiers - who described her as "beautiful and shapely", commented on her feminine qualities, etc. Similarly, the author completely ignores the quotes from Joan herself concerning the practical necessity of wearing soldiers' clothing (of a type which had "laces and points" which allowed her to tie the pants and tunic together), partly as a defense against rape while in prison as well as to discourage sexual advances while bedding down with her army in the field. This was the accepted way of doing it in that era, and if it was thus being done out of necessity the Church itself granted permission (see medieval theological works such as St. Thomas Aquinas' "Summa Theologica", St. Hildegard's "Scito Vias Domini", and so on). The accounts say that in the end her guards maneuvered her into a "relapse" by leaving her nothing to wear but her old male clothing, and she had no choice but to put it back on after arguing with them "until noon", according to one eyewitness. Warner replaces this evidence with speculation.
- In the chapter "Amazon", the author ignores Joan's own recorded quotations stating that she did _not_ fight in battle but instead carried her banner, a view which is backed up by the more reliable eyewitness accounts. This evidence is replaced with a sidetrack through ancient mythology, as if such would somehow be relevant. We are then told about Joan's alleged "joy in battle", which is entirely fictional: the eyewitness accounts repeatedly say that she wept over the deaths of enemy soldiers.
- The book's claims about the Rehabilitation are largely false. For instance, the claim is made that the tribunal never declared Joan's holiness and never vindicated her decision to wear soldiers' clothing, which is wrong on both counts: the Inquisitor specifically labeled her a martyr for the faith - practically the highest possible declaration of holiness; and he devoted an entire section to the clothing issue (see Part VI of his 'Recollectio Frater Johannis Brehali'). It would help if authors would at least bother to actually read such documents before giving an 'analysis' of their contents.
It is truly sad to see this book in reprint, as it does a great disservice to the heroine whose life is here being filtered through the dishonest claims of the men who cruelly put her to death. As the Acknowledgments allude to, the books of Regine Pernoud (founder of the Centre Jeanne d'Arc) are recognized as the best of the readily-obtainable books on the subject; two of these are available here at Amazon.
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