Through a Political Lens: Joan of Arc from Myth to Modern Fragmentation
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Politicians and film directors have adopted Joan of Arc’s image to empower women, discriminate against minorities, and to promote revolutionary ideas, all in an effort to lend authority to their own personal agendas. What modern scholars now understand is that exploiting Joan is not restricted to the modern era. In fact, Joan has been manipulated since her initial contact with politically motivated people in her era. Joan has been a source of evaluation and manipulation since the fifteenth-century, evident when examining Joan’s condemnation trial. Religious belief in the Middle Ages was often manipulated to lend authority to political ideologies (not unlike modern society). The condemnation trial was used as a veil to conceal a long political struggle for power between three main factions (Burgundian, Armagnacs, and English). Joan’s dissemination has only increased as society has progressed technologically. Modern film directors have created a “Joan character” that they alter and manipulate based on political sympathies. Modern film has fictionalized Joan and her history; political parties in France have manipulated Joan in their struggle for control over her image and what it signals. By choosing to adapt Joan to modern ideologies, film directors continue to perpetuate the myth that Joan’s condemnation was based on religious factors alone. Understanding initial manipulations of Joan will allow for a clear picture of how she has been fragmented in modern depictions. Much the same way that myths and prophecies were used to give authority to political ideologies in Joan’s time, modern film directors and political parties use myth and prophecy about Joan in their messages. Reconstituting Joan will illuminate the sophisticated collaboration between religion and politics in the Middle Ages and help viewers see the necessity of considering both arenas when attempting an accurate portrayal of Joan of Arc. To reassemble Joan we have to understand that religious and mythical propaganda were manipulated based on political undertones at Joan’s condemnation trial, and continue to be altered based on shifting political tides in the modern era.