Encyclopedia of Romantic Nationalism in Europe

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Fauriel, Claude

  • Europe (general)FrenchOccitan/ProvençalPhilhellenicText editions
  • Social category:
    Scholars, scientists, intellectuals
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  • Title:
    Fauriel, Claude
  • Title2:
    Fauriel, Claude
  • Text:

    Claude Charles Fauriel (Saint-Etienne 1772 – Paris 1844) embodies the interdependence of transnational and national perspectives in the first half of the 19th century. He was a cultural mediator in many respects: a typical example of the transition between the spirit of the Enlightenment and the historicism of the Romantic era; a connoisseur of foreign literatures; a believer in the complementarity between cultural history, philology and linguistics. He based his theories on a comparative method, taking different cultural areas into account. Moreover, he combined politics, scholarship and literature.

    At school, Fauriel learned both ancient and modern languages (Italian, English). A Jacobin, he took part in the Revolution, held various official posts and became secretary of Joseph Fouché, Minister of Police under Napoleon Bonaparte. Fauriel resigned from this post in 1802, wrote a very critical study of the “destruction of the Republic” (Les derniers jours du Consulat, posthumously published in 1886) and devoted his time to his studies. He frequented Idéologue circles such as Destutt de Tracy, Ginguené and Cabanis, had a close relationship with Madame de Staël and lived with Madame de Condorcet from 1802 until her death in 1822. In 1830 he was appointed the first professor of “foreign literature” at the Sorbonne, under the patronage of his friend and admirer François Guizot. Despite his thorough studies and his broad perspectives on the history of literature and culture, to which his personal papers preserved at the library of the Institut de France in Paris attest, Fauriel published relatively little; his life’s work, a study of Provençal culture, remained unfinished. Nevertheless, Fauriel gave new, decisive impulses to the study of literature and culture.

    Fauriel was one of the main French-Italian and French-German cultural mediators of his time. With his translation of Il Conte di Carmagnola (1820) and Adelchi (1823), two historical tragedies written by his close friend Alessandro Manzoni, to which he added a preface of his own (1823), Fauriel contributed to the Romantic challenge against dominant literary taste. His translation of Giovanni Berchet’s I profughi di Parga (1823) served both to bolster that poet’s fame and to canvass support for the Greek struggle for independence.

    His main contribution to the Philhellenic movement was the edition of Chants populaires de la Grèce moderne (1824-1825). This book, written in collaboration with Greek friends, was the first collection of Greek popular songs ever published, a milestone in the study of modern Greek literature, culture and folklore. Fauriel’s book was a crucially important nodal point in a vortex of European cultural transfers. There were several links between Fauriel’s project and similar attempts made by other scholars (Jean-Charles-Léonard Simonde de Sismondi, Werner von Haxthausen, Jean Alexandre Buchon), involving also the likes of Goethe, Jacob Grimm and Jernej Kopitar. Two groups of Greeks, in Vienna and in Paris, contributed to the transmission of texts and of the lore which Fauriel summarized in his “Discours préliminaire”, subsequently a benchmark text for Neohellenists, particularly in Germany. Fauriel drew on Jacob Grimm and Friedrich August Wolf when comparing ancient and modern Greek literature, which led him to endorse the idea of a cultural continuity between ancient and modern Greece. He classified Greek folk songs as natural poetry, an authentic source for the development of Greek national language and literature. This view was a strong boost for the ideology of Hellenic continuity, so centrally important to Greek nationalism and the nascent Greek state.

    As professor at the Sorbonne, Fauriel promulgated Wolf’s ideas and applied them to his own theory of “primitive epics”. He compared the Homeric poems with early epics and ballads (Mahabharata, Shahnameh, Nibelungenlied, Spanish and troubadour romances) and concluded that in each case the founding stage of a “national literature” was rooted in oral poems recalling early historical events, and reflecting the life and culture of a particular nation. Fauriel presented these theories in several lecture courses at the university, particularly in those on the history of Provençal literature (1830-1832) and on the Homeric question (1835-1836). In his lectures on Greek and Serbian literature (1831-1832), he traced both to a common Indo-European origin. Thus, Fauriel’s thought tended to extend the comparative method from linguistics to literary history. For the same reason, the Breton philologist La Villemarqué was later to look to him for support.

    Fauriel was also one of the founders of medieval Romance studies, although his role has been overshadowed by the fame of Raynouard, Diez and Gaston Paris. His project was to write the history of the south of France from its origins until the end of the 13th century. Only the second part, the Histoire de la Gaule méridionale sous la domination des conquérants germains, was published in 1836. In this book and in his notes and lessons on the history of Provençal poetry, Fauriel used a method based on philological analysis, but also on historical and ethnological methods, on linguistics and literary analysis. Just as Raynouard considered Occitan the mother-tongue of the Romance languages, Fauriel claimed that both the Carolingian and Arthurian cycles, which interested him because of their Europe-wide spread, had Provençal origins. This thesis stood against “Northern” (Norman or Breton) hypotheses, advanced, among others, by La Villemarqué, who shared Fauriel’s interest in popular oral poetry. Fauriel’s theses sparked controversies and were rejected in the 1850s, but some of his datings were later confirmed. By showing what European literatures borrowed from Occitan poetry and by stressing the resistance of the southern peoples against the Germanic invasions, Fauriel put into question the claims of German scholars who assumed the primacy and originality of Germanic culture. Paradoxically, his comparative method, his interest in foreign cultures and his borrowing from German philology were deployed in what was a specifically national orientation.

    Word Count: 954

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  • Botta, Irene (ed.); Carteggio Manzoni-Fauriel (Milano: Centro nazionale Studi Manzoniani, 2000).

    Espagne, Michel; Le paradigme de l’étranger: Les chaires de littérature étrangère au XIXe siècle (Paris: Cerf, 1993).

    Espagne, Michel; “Claude Fauriel en quête d’une méthode, ou l’idéologie à l’écoute de l’Allemagne”, Romantisme, 21.3 (1991), 7-18.

    Espagne, Michel; “Le philhellénisme entre philologie et politique: Un transfert franco-allemand”, Revue germanique internationale, 1/2 (2005), 61-75.

    Fauriel, Claude; Dante et les origines de la langue et de la littérature italiennes (Paris: n.pub., 1854).

    Fauriel, Claude; Histoire de la poésie provençale (Genève: Slatkine, 1969).

    Galley, Jean-Baptiste; Claude Fauriel: Membre de l’Institut, 1772-1843 (Saint-Étienne: Imprimerie de la «Loire Républicaine», 1909).

    Ibrovac, Miodrag; Claude Fauriel et la fortune européenne des poésies populaires grecque et serbe: Etude d’histoire romantique suivie du cours de Fauriel professé en Sorbonne (1831-1832) (Paris: Didier, 1966).

    Maufroy, Sandrine; Le philhellénisme franco-allemand, 1815-1848 (Paris: Belin, 2011).

    Sgoff, Brigitte; Claude Fauriel und die Anfänge der romanischen Sprachwissenschaft (doctoral thesis; München: Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, 1994).

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    © the author and SPIN. Cite as follows (or as adapted to your stylesheet of choice): Maufroy, Sandrine, 2022. "Fauriel, Claude", Encyclopedia of Romantic Nationalism in Europe, ed. Joep Leerssen (electronic version; Amsterdam: Study Platform on Interlocking Nationalisms, https://ernie.uva.nl/), article version, last changed 20-04-2022, consulted 12-08-2022.