The Readers Review: Literature from 1714 to 1910 discussion

2010/11 Group Reads - Archives > The Hunchback of Notre Dame - Background and Resources

Comments Showing 1-18 of 18 (18 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Silver (new)

Silver Here you can place any information about the author, or any other materials which you think will be helpful to the further enjoyment and understanding of the book.

Please use spoiler warnings where needed.

message 2: by MadgeUK (last edited Jul 14, 2011 07:49AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Here is some backgound info about Paris and the Notre Dame. I have asked Andrea to give us some background info about 19C French literature, and especially that appertaining to the portrayal of Romani people.

Virtual Notre Dame and other Paris buildings:-

Notre Dame de Paris is widely considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture in the world and in the 19C its restoration was inspired by Victor Hugo's book about a 'hunchback' who supposedly lived there:-

History of Notre Dame with old photos. There may be a spoiler here as it mentions the opart Hugo and the popularity of the Hunchback played in the 19C restoration project:-

Although we are used to seeing the gargoyles of Notre Dame and possibly associate them with the Hunchback, they were part of the 19C restoration. Here is something about gargoyles:-

Possible identity of Quasimodo:-

Medieval Paris:-

Map of Medieval Paris as Quasimodo would have known it:-

After the Revolution Paris was redesigned by Baron Haussman who created the boulevards we know today but here are some excellent photos of existing medieval buildings still standing in Paris:-

message 3: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Here is some background information Victor Hugo's life and homes.

Victor Hugo led a very interesting and controversial life. He was very political and had originally supported Napoleon but his opposition to Louis Napoleon Bonaparte and his penchant for democracy got him into trouble. He was eventually banned from France, despite being its most prominent author and poet (once tipped for President). Here is a nice little biography website to click around:-

He left France in 1851 for an exile that would last 19 years. Following a short period of time in Jersey in the Channel islands, Hugo settled in nearby Guernsey. He lived in Hauteville House which he and his mistress, who lived nearby, spent a lot of time decorating in a very ornate style. It is well preserved and can be visited. It was here that he finished Les Miserables - all that poverty amidst such luxury!:-


It has a fabulous outside staircase/fire escape - very romantic. I wonder if his mistress used this as a quick exit!

Hugo also kept two houses in Paris, both fabulously decorated. I love this room - he ran out of wall!:-

One of his homes is now part of a luxurious hotel:-

message 4: by Loretta (new)

Loretta (lorettalucia) Thank you, thank you for the background Madge. I can't wait to start reading (though it will have to wait until this evening).

That map of Medieval Paris is sort of mind-blowing. Of course, I understand that all cities start somewhere, but comparing that to modern day Paris... it's sometimes hard to believe that they're one and the same.

message 5: by Loretta (new)

Loretta (lorettalucia) *sigh* some of these pictures make me think I'm living on the wrong continent. ;-)

message 6: by Andreea (new)

Andreea (andyyy) | 34 comments A bit of cultural background to the novel:

Really good website on Romanticism

Thoughts on Romanticism as a philosophical movement

Some words on trying to define historical novels

For historical context of the growing popularity of the historical novel, György Lukács is really good - some of his books The Historical Novel is on googlebooks, you can read the first chapter about the context and some bits of the one on Water Scott. It's not an easy read, but if you're patient it came prove very interesting. Lukács is one of the major 20th century Marxist philosophers and genre literary theorists.

I know I said I'll bring in some information about Romani people, but most of it is in print so I'll have to either scan it or try to summarize it so it might take a tiny bit longer.

message 7: by MadgeUK (last edited Jul 12, 2011 12:12AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Thanks a lot for these great links Andreea! I note that the first one references Hugo and says: 'Hugo's "Notre Dame" is the epitome of French Romantic fiction. Hugo tries to reconstruct a late Middle-Age Paris, Filled with strange characters, each one showing more individuality and more vigor than the anaemic kings and heroes of a late neo-classic tragedy. The novel seems to be a collection of curiosities more than a collection of human beings. Hugo's novel influenced romantics to mind less the portrayal of character than their incidents, and in particular their emotionalism and the vague humanitarianism which will be in the spirit of democracy as we know it.' and 'Hugo recognized and stated the love of man for history, contrasts, contradictions, for melting the comic and the tragic, and for the grotesque. Shakespeare was a great influence. Another tendency developed by Hugo and topic of Romanticism is the one for the exotic, incredibly affirmed in the paintings of Delacroix and in Hugo's work titled "Les Orientales"(1829).'

Here is something about Delacroix and images of his work:-

The second link on the definition of Romanticism and the ideas behind it was very 'Enlightening':).

message 8: by MadgeUK (last edited Jul 14, 2011 07:50AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Here is a link (Spoiler) to the words of Esmeralda's song Ave Maria paien:-

Esmeralda has inspired a lot of sculptures and statuettes:-

It is thought that Hugo may have modelled his Esmeralda on this sculpture of La Gitanilla (gipsies), based on a novella by Cervantes, which became a popular operetta in Hugo's time:-

And Charles von Steuben painted her:-

A short history of the Roma:-

message 9: by Silver (new)

Silver Art is a topic of personal interest to me, and I love art history so whenever a book mentions a work of art I have to look it up.

Here is the Faust by Rembrandt mentioned in Book 7 Ch. IV

message 10: by Kim (new)

Kim (kimmr) | 317 comments Thank you for that link, Silver. I've done a bit of reading about the work and I understand that it only became known as "Dr Faustus" in the 18th century. It was previously called "The Practising Alchemist". Its subject apparently remains unclear today. I read somewhere else that it's in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. I've been there, but I don't remember seeing it. (Not that that means anything. I was overwhelmed by the Rijksmuseum and doubt that I can really remember anything much apart from The Night Watch!)

message 11: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Thanks Silver. Here is something about the enigmatic painting from the Rijksmuseum website:-

message 12: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 2632 comments Kim wrote: "...I was overwhelmed by the Rijksmuseum and doubt that I can really remember anything much apart from The Night Watch!..."

Oh, I hope that you can at least remember Vermeer's "The Milkmaid."

(I quite literally went to Amsterdam primarily to see it. It remains probably my favorite Vermeer. It had not left there for many years and at the time I did not foresee its voyage to NYC for the Henry Hudson 400 year celebration. Years ago I said in front of friend that I should like to see as many Vermeers as possible in my lifetime. The following Christmas she gave me Wheelock's book and said now you know where they are. A few years later, he arranged bringing so many to the National Galleries in Washington, so along with the five in NYC, I now had the core of Vermeer's oeuvre. Subsequent exhibitions and my own explorations have brought me others. I am now down to two or three authenticated ones that I have not seen.)

message 13: by Kim (new)

Kim (kimmr) | 317 comments Lily wrote: Oh, I hope that you can at least remember Vermeer's "The Milk..."

It's all coming back to me, Lily. I do indeed remember seeing The Milkmaid!

I have a friend who feels about Caravaggio the way you feel about Vermeer. She has travelled to many places to see his paintings, although not - so far - to Malta. I have trudged all over Rome with her to see the works located in that city and I have made a point of seeing Caravaggios in cities she either hasn't been to or hasn't been to in a while.

One of my main reasons for going to Amsterdam was to see the Van Gogh Museum. I found it so beautiful and so moving that I didn't want to leave.

message 14: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Yes, I love the Van Gogh Museum and as you say it is very moving.

message 15: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 2632 comments Kim wrote: "One of my main reasons for going to Amsterdam was to see the Van Gogh Museum. I found it so beautiful and so moving that I didn't want to leave..."

One of my traveling companions loves Van Gogh and was as excited about that museum as I was about the Vermeers. (We did not try to go to the Hague, since those that were there I had already seen in other exhibitions and our trip was a full one as it was. Our guide from the U.S. who traveled with us is a favorite local art lecturer and is also a college professor. We would meet each morning as a group for breakfast for some insights for the day ahead and to share our personal highlights. We also had local guides.)

Our trip included the Kroller-Muller, which has a number of fine Van Goghs as well.

The Rijksmuseum was undergoing renovations at the time we were there, which may have turned out to be a blessing. It seemed as if an extraordinary number of the finest pieces of its collections were all available in a few galleries.

message 16: by Lily (last edited Jul 22, 2011 09:06PM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 2632 comments Kim wrote: "I have made a point of seeing Caravaggios in cities she either hasn't been to or hasn't been to in a while...."

If/when you are in NYC, would love to share seeing these (at least whatever is currently on display) with you:

("The Musicians" does not show up in the "on view" list tonight. I believe it may be the "best" of those the Met has in its collection. Perhaps it is on tour.)

message 17: by Kim (new)

Kim (kimmr) | 317 comments Lily wrote: "If/when you are in NYC, would love to share seeing these (at least whate..."

That would be lovely, Lily. I visit NYC every couple of years or so. I was there in January this year, so I probably won't be back for a while. I didn't go to the Met Museum on this last trip, but when I was there in 2009 I remember seeing The Musicians (and buying a postcard reproduction for my friend!) The other Caravaggios weren't on display on that occasion.

On that trip I managed to get to the last day of the Van Gogh exhibition at MOMA. I don't think that I've been in a more crowded art gallery in my life. However, the museum is clearly used to dealing with crowds and it all went very smoothly.

message 18: by Amalie (new)

Amalie Madge thank you sooo much for Lily and background resources. You too Lily :) I have read the novel and since I got my own group and second semester exams in school (which are almost over) then it's exam marking *Sigh* so I can't really join any discussions but thanks again for all the wonderful resources now I need to look at that novel again.

back to top


The Readers Review: Literature from 1714 to 1910

unread topics | mark unread

Books mentioned in this topic

The Historical Novel (other topics)