Friday, October 31, 2008

Playing at Monarchy: Sport as Metaphor in Nineteenth-Century France

So, as of this week my book is out in print. And I wish I had enough copies to give everyone who has helped me along the way. But times are tough... and complimentary copies are hard to come by. It's nowhere near the thanks some people deserve, but I'm going to paste my acknowledgments here, along with a list of the chapters. If anyone is tempted to read more, the book can be purchased from the publisher (University of Nebraska Press) or from

Table of Contents
Mountain Stages and How-To Manuals
1 Paume Anyone?
Representing Real Tennis After the Tennis Court Oath
2 The Spanish Bullfight in France
Goya, Gautier and Mérimée
3 Trictrac and Chess as Models of Historical Discourse
Chance in the Works of Balzac and Mérimée
4 Of Rabbits and Kings
Hunting and Upward Mobility
5 Fencing and Aristocratic Resistance during the Third Republic
6 Olympic Restoration
Coubertin and the European Monarchy
Imitation and Resistance

I owe the original idea for this book to friends in my racquetball group. After getting yet another bruise in the back from an errant ball, I decided it would be better for me to spend more time researching sports than actually playing them. The bruises also led me to approach Prosper Mérimée’s tale “La Vénus d’Ille” in a new way. The narrative’s main character is an accomplished tennis player, a star of the court. Following a particularly important match (on the day of his wedding), he ends up dead. I had worked on Mérimée’s literature as a graduate student, in this story studying the construction of the supernatural. But I now came to his text with a new understanding of the connection between racquet sports and pain. So instead of looking for the cause of death in the details surrounding his marriage or in the testimony of his bride who claimed that a moving statue killed him, I decided to look for reasons in the way he approached the game itself. Can playing tennis actually kill you? The answer, as you will see in the pages that follow, is yes. And so I begin by thanking Allen, Michael, Lee, Lanny, Enoc, Juan, Todd, Brett and Kerry whose errant “kill shots” put me on the path that led to this book.

I am deeply grateful to the many people who have given me feedback on the manuscript as it was in various stages of preparation. Thanks to my colleagues at Brigham Young University: Yvon LeBras, Marc Olivier, Daryl Lee, Matthew Wickman, and Ed Cutler. A special thank you goes to my friend and colleague Scott Sprenger who read so much of the first draft. Thanks also to colleagues at other universities who provided invaluable feedback and support along the way: Scott Carpenter (Carleton College), Armine Mortimer and Emile Talbot (University of Illinois), Allan H. Pasco (University of Kansas), Antonia Fonyi (CNRS/ITEM), Kathryn Grossman (Penn State University), and Dorothy Kelly (Boston University).

I must also thank the numerous friendly people I met in the world of trictrac (a now nearly forgotten board game) and paume (also called "real tennis"): Thierry Depaulis, David Levy, and Philippe Lalanne of the trictrac research group; Joe Wells, who graciously agreed to play several games of trictrac with me; Anthony Scratchley and Angus Williams, the former and current head pros at the paume court in Fontainebleau who offered me a warm welcomel and Richard Travers who translated an 1862 work about paume written by Eugène Chapus and Edouard Fournier.

I also wish to thank Cordell Cropper and Susan Cropper for their encouragement through my entire career; Marvin Gardner and his assistants at the BYU Faculty Editing Service; Elizabeth Moesser and Glen Young for their help in proofreading and source checking; Debbie Van Ausdal and Kathleen Allen for their generous logistical support.

The Brigham Young University College of Humanities, Department of French and Italian, Center for the Study of Europe, and Kennedy Center for International Studies have funded research trips and granted me release time to complete the project. I thank them for working with me.

Thanks are also due to the entire team at the University of Nebraska Press who have efficiently and politely guided me through the last stages of revision and publication. I am also grateful to the employees of the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, who kindly helped me locate many obscure articles and books necessary for the completion of this project.

Finally, I express my love to my wife, April, and to our children for their many years of patience and support.


marc said...

Cool. I'm in an acknowledgment. Does that mean I can count this as a publication?

Corry Cropper said...

A citation, at least.

Unknown said...

BTW, you can get a better deal on the book at