The First Vigilante: Natural Law, Slavery, and the Killer Cobbler: A Salon discussion with Associate Professor Yann Robert from the University of Illinois at Chicago
On Fri., Sept. 23rd from 3-5 pm, Yann Robert, Associate Professor of French and Francophone Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago and author of Dramatic Justice: Trial by Theater in the Age of the French Revolution (Penn, 2018) will discuss a pre-circulated paper drawn from his new book project on the rise of the vigilante. Please contact Tili Boon Cuillé for a copy of the paper if you would like to participate in the discussion. This joint endeavor of the Eighteenth-Century Interdisciplinary Salon and the French Connexions Cultural Center is made possible by a grant from the Center for the Humanities.
The First Vigilante: Natural Law, Slavery, and the Killer Cobbler
A Salon discussion with Associate Professor Yann Robert from the University of Illinois at Chicago
Vigilantism is widely regarded as a uniquely American phenomenon, originating in the American Revolution and Frontier. Yet decades earlier the French priest Jean-Baptiste Labat published a short story that constitutes the first literary example of a vigilante in France -- and perhaps even anywhere. This 1730 tale of a killer cobbler leads me to explore the historical and philosophical conditions that made the emergence of modern vigilantism possible. In this new genealogy, vigilantism finds its birth and raison d'être in natural law theory, notably John Locke's notion of a "natural right to punish," and in the attempts by Labat and others to justify slavery as an institution and as a set of punitive practices. This alternative history of vigilantism illuminates the ways in which vigilante hero worship in film and literature continues to function today as a narrative veil for racial and economic violence.
For those who are unable to join us in person but would like to participate via Zoom, please follow the link below for advance registration:
You are invited to a Zoom meeting.
When: Sep 23, 2022, 03:00 PM Central Time (US and Canada)
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