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Eloquence EmbodiedNonverbal Communication among French and Indigenous Peoples in the Americas$
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Céline Carayon

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781469652627

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469652627.001.0001

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“Civil in any Country, if They Are So in the Fashion of France”

“Civil in any Country, if They Are So in the Fashion of France”

Nonverbal Communication, Civility, and the Language of Signs in Early Modern France

(p.105) 2 “Civil in any Country, if They Are So in the Fashion of France”
Eloquence Embodied

Céline Carayon

University of North Carolina Press

As the 1550 Royal Entry in Rouen described in the opening of this chapter reveals, Renaissance and Early Modern France was home to a deeply ceremonial culture in which political and social rituals held complex meanings. This chapter reviews significant historical and cultural developments that transformed Europeans’ predominantly oral cultures after 1500. At the time of their explorations in the Americas, the French were familiar with a variety of sign traditions that informed their perception of Indigenous gestures and prepared them well to communicate with signs in the New World. In France, gestural communication was deeply connected to the realms of religious and secular oratory, drama (theatre), and court protocols. The seventeenth century saw a renewal of scientific and philosophical interest for manual eloquence with new universal language schemes being developed, including some of the first manuals of sign language. Increased state control over definitions of civility and ongoing distrust of theatrical gestures as unauthentic resulted in diverging types of nonverbal expression among the elite and the rest of the population. The chapter ends with an overview of early Atlantic repertoires of signs that evolved from the traditions of mariners and soldiers who participated in early voyages.

Keywords:   Rouen royal entry (1550), Early Modern France, Political rituals, Oratory, Theatre, Civility, Universal language, Manuals of sign language, Mariners

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