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Democratic Rhetoric and The Duty of Deliberation, Vol. 8 - 2001, No. 3

Public Discourse, Propaganda, and Personality Cult under Louis XIV

, pages: 59-72

Although ceremonial forms of public speech in the time of Louis XIV do not allow for the creation of a sphere of public deliberation, they aim at producing ethical effects and provide a rich source for the study of a historically determined cult of personality. They participate in the royal administration's program for the celebration of the absolutist monarchy, adding to its control over ideological mechanisms. Ceremonial speeches are an integral part of the royal text, a complex network of discursive practices which also includes histories and official memoirs as well as pictorial and sculptural representations. Each component has a specific function in its own given context, but it resonates with all the components within the royal text and derives its wider significance as an instrument of personality cult from this intertextual relationship. With Colbert as the major force behind its production, the royal text is elaborated in the context of State-sponsored institutions such as the French Academy, specifically as an instrument of monarchic celebration. By analysing two discursive strategies, the elaboration of the image of an infallible ruler and the defence and justification of his policies, we can identify topoď at the core of all forms of personality cult, even perhaps contemporary totalitarian regimes. This article aims at developing tools for the analysis of personality cult as a general phenomenon, and at understanding the function of public speech in guaranteeing the apparently immutable social order of the Ancien Régime.

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