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Notes and Reflections on Books and Media

by Hannah Leitheiser


The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Victor Hugo




One last post about Notre Dame, then I have to go to sleep -- about the context of Hugo's work.

Hunchback was published in 1833, which was a few decades after the French Revolution. The French Revolution, along with beheading a lot of people, involved replacing the symbolism of Church and King with those of enlightenment, and probably responding to this continuing trend, Hugo was trying to kindle an appreciation for Gothic architecture to prevent further modernization and destruction. (The book includes a fairly long discussion of French architecture, which was hard to follow, I suppose, since I don't live in that area.)

Frollo and Quasimodo, to a degree, were personifications of the architecture. Quasimodo, deaf, mostly mute, aloft, strong, taking pride in his bells. Frollo pious, austere, cold, but a master of the science of his time. Both tragic characters, I suppose, just as Hugo saw the revolution and the printing press as a tragedy for a kind of building and stone as the main medium of impressing ideas.