Historical Figure - Political Appropriation

Political Appropriation

A historical figure may be interpreted to support political aims. In France in the first half of the seventeenth century, there was an outpouring of writing about Joan of Arc, including seven biographies, three plays and an epic poem. Joan had become a symbol of national pride and the Catholic faith, helping unite a country that had been divided by the recent wars of religion. The reality of the historical Joan was subordinated to the need for a symbol of feminine strength, Christian virtue and resistance to the English. George Bernard Shaw, introducing his 1923 play Saint Joan, discussed representations of Joan by other authors. He felt that William Shakespeare's depiction in Henry VI, Part 1 was constrained from making her a "beautiful and romantic figure" by political considerations. Voltaire's version in his poem La Pucelle d'Orléans was also flawed by Voltaire's biases and Friedrich Schiller's play Die Jungfrau von Orleans "is not about Joan at all, and can hardly be said to pretend to be."

A historical figure may be used to validate a politician's claim to authority, where the modern leader shapes and exploits the ideas associated with the historical figure, which they are presumed to have inherited. Thus Jesse Jackson has frequently evoked the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr.. Fidel Castro often presented himself as following the path defined by José Martí. Hugo Chávez of Venezuela has frequently identified himself with the historical figure Simón Bolívar, the liberator of South America from Spanish rule.

Hegel believed in the role of the state in guaranteeing individual liberties, and his views were therefore rejected by the German National Socialists, who considered him dangerously liberal and perhaps a proto-Marxist. On the other hand, Adolf Hitler identified himself as a Hegelian world historical figure, and justified his actions on this basis.

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Famous quotes containing the word political:

    When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
    Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826)