De Béranger à Bruant. Chansons sur les gueux – chansons pour les gueux ?

Dietmar Rieger


The literary history of the ‘gueux’ in the nineteenth century, to which Victor Hugo contributed
as well with his story Claude Gueux (1834), takes place mainly in the literary/musical genre of the ‘chanson’ and in feuilletonistic and sociological texts of the paupérisme-debate of the time. Béranger’s Les Gueux, emphasizing the intrinsic value and the autonomy of the social outsider in contrast to his criminalization which dominated the contemporary discussion, remains tinted with epicurean vision and is still too uncritical of the status quo to remain unchallenged in the course of its literary reception – ranging from Gustave Leroy and Jean-Baptiste Clément, who protested just as vigorously as Jules Vallès, to the ‘limonadier’ and disciple of Béranger, Jean-Louis Renaudot, Jehan Rictus, Jean Richepin’s Chanson des Gueux, and the commercialization of the topic of the outcast by Aristide Bruant’. Doubtless, these reactions to Les Gueux reflect the political-ideological debates of nineteenth century bourgeois society on the solution of the social question.



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