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The Sea

Jules Michelet

Translated by Katia Sainson

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Jules Michelet
The Sea
Series No.: 188
ISBN: 978-1-93338-211-1, Pages: 392
French Literature, Nonfiction

The Sea, which is translated here for the first time since 1861, is a work that is part scientific popularization, part history, part travelogue, part prose poem and part autobiography. Written by Jules Michelet (1798-1874), who Gustave Flaubert dubbed the only French Romantic, this gripping and fantastical description of the primordial sea later impacted such divergent contemporary imaginings of the sea as Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea and Lautréamont's Chant de Maldoror (with its dark parody of Michelet's portrayal of shark passion).

Michelet does battle against the perspective of the sea as a fatal boundary that separates two very different worlds--a site of darkness, a desert, a monster, an enemy and an agent of death that is constantly threatening those on earth with a return to chaos--and, emphasizing the link between the sea [la mer] and the mother [la mère], he explores the multi-dimensional relationship between man and this mother of all life. In The Sea, this great chronicler of the French Revolution not only offers a popularization of nineteenth-century theories of natural science but a historian's analysis of man's interaction with the sea as it relates to colonization, environmentalism, the rise of technology in industrial societies, and theories on hygiene and leisure.

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