#FlightyFridays — WSFH Talk: “Ce gentlemen rider du turf atmospheric" [sic]: Ballooning, Aristocratic Masculinity, and the Colonial Imaginary in Turn-of-the-Century France”

Today’s #FlightyFridays will be another presentation I recently gave at the most recent Western Society for French Historical Studies Conference, which took place in a pleasantly charming but dreadfully rainy Portland, ME, from November 1-3, 2018.

Two aristocrats who tried (and failed) to cross the Mediterranean aboard a balloon—Henri de La Vaulx (left) and Georges de Castillon de Saint-Victor (right).

La Vie au Grand Air, 20 October 1901, 615 (Gallica, BNF).

I was lucky enough to be part of a panel titled “Border Crossings: Aristocratic Masculinities at the Fin de Siècle,” chaired by Sally Charnow, from Hofstra University. H-France selected our panel to be recorded, and just released it as part of the H-France Salon, Vol. 10 (2018), Issue 14. I now have the pleasure of sharing it with you.

The paper I presented was titled “‘Ce gentlemen rider du turf atmospheric’ [sic]: Ballooning, Aristocratic Masculinity, and the Colonial Imaginary in Turn-of-the-Century France.” It incorporates some new research I’ve been doing that situates ballooning within the context of empire—focusing especially on how it served both as an adventurous practice for aristocrats to negotiate their anxieties concerning France’s crisis of masculinity following the Franco-Prussian War defeat and as a way for the French to imagine how to manage their growing imperial possessions.

Venita Datta (Wellesley College) followed with a paper that compared and contrasted the performances of masculinities in the American West by Theodore Roosevelt and the curious Marquis de Morès. It was then Elizabeth Everton’s (Concordia University) turn, and she told a winding, intriguing, and often hilarious story of a duel that never happened but that still caused the press to go into a frenzy. Catherine Clark (The Massachusetts Institute of Technology) presented a very pertinent comment that addressed how perhaps we should understand masculinity as central to the construction of modernity. The panel closed with some questions and a brief but insightful discussion about how many of the tropes that informed masculinity more than a century ago linger in the present—especially in the form of toxic masculinity. All of the videos are worth checking out.

The departure of La Vaulx and Castillon de Saint-Victor’s balloon from its hangar in the Isthme des Sablettes, near Toulon, during their first attempt to cross the Mediterranean.

La Vie au Grand Air, 20 October 1901, 615 (Gallica, BNF).

Here’s my presentation (links to the full panel below):


Border Crossings: Aristocratic Masculinities at the Fin de Siècle

Chair: Sally Charnow, Hofstra University

Patrick Luiz Sullivan de Oliveira, Princeton University

“Ce gentlemen rider du turf atmosphérique’ [sic]: Ballooning, Aristocratic Masculinity, the Colonial Imaginary in Turn-of-the-Century France”

Venita Datta,Wellesley College

“Aristocratic Masculinities on the Global Frontier: The Marquis de Morès and Theodore Roosevelt”

Elizabeth Everton, Concordia University

“Dueling at a Distance, 1901: Politics, Honor, Manhood, and Exile in the ‘Affaire Buffet-Déroulède’”

Catherine Clark, The Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Comment and Audience Questions