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French Researcher Highlights Importance of LSU’s Delsarte Papers

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Un chercheur français souligne l’importance du Fonds Delsarte de la LSU.

François Delsarte

Franck Waille est l’auteur de la première thèse en français concernant François Delsarte, thèse qui a marqué une étape importante dans la connaissance de la vie et des enseignements de cet artiste français dont les travaux ont ouvert la modernité des arts de la scène en Occident. Spécialiste en histoire, actuellement engagé en post-doctorat à l’Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), Franck Waille affirme que le fonds appelé couramment le Fonds Delsarte [François Alexandre Nicolas Delsarte Papers (Mss. 1301)] de la LSU a été la principale source documentaire pour sa thèse Corps, arts et spiritualité chez François Delsarte (1811-1871). Des interactions dynamiques, soutenue en 2009 à l’Université Lyon 3.

Ayant fait ses recherches à la Hill Memorial Library en 2006, Franck Waille constate que « le fonds Delsarte de la LSU est le principal lieu dans le monde pour la conservation des documents se rapportant à Delsarte. En France, les archives delsartiennes sont dispersées entre quelques fonds publics assez pauvres en documents, et des fonds privés parfois peu identifiables ou difficiles d’accès. Le Québec possède le fonds d’un élève québécois de Delsarte, Thomas-Étienne Hamel, aux archives du séminaire de Québec. Aux USA, il existe de nombreux documents concernant Delsarte à la Rauner Special Collections du Dartmouth College (Hanover, New Hampshire), mais en quantité bien moindre que dans le fonds de la Hill Memorial Library. C’est en effet ici qu’a été versé l’essentiel des documents achetés à Paris par James Morrison Steele MacKaye et le révérend William Rounseville Alger en 1872 à la famille Delsarte. La mémoire concernant cet artiste doit un large tribut aux USA, qui ont non seulement pérennisé et diffusé ses enseignements, mais encore qui ont permis que de très nombreuses archives soient conservées jusqu’à nos jours dans un très bon état et rendues facilement accessibles aux chercheurs. Parmi ceux-ci, j’ai eu le privilège d’être celui ayant passé le plus de temps sur les archives delsartiennes de Louisiane (trois mois et demi), sans en épuiser la matière tant elle est abondante. »

Comme Franck Waille le remarque, les documents du Fonds Delsarte sont très disparates, allant de simples feuilles ou enveloppes sur lesquelles figurent des croquis ou des phrases, à des cahiers très détaillés ou à des transcriptions de séries de conférences faites par Delsarte entre 1858 et 1868. « De simples feuilles peuvent être des mines de renseignements majeurs » ajoute-t-il. « C’est le cas de deux simples pages autobiographiques, à partir desquelles j’ai pu reconstruire une partie de la biographie de Delsarte. » De plus, « ses dessins et croquis, associés à des textes, permettent de lui attribuer de manière certaine une large part des enseignements corporels transmis sous son nom mais qui furent déclarés par MacKaye (et sa famille) comme venant de lui et non de Delsarte. »

“Compendium Psychique” de Delsarte / Delsarte’s “Compendium Psychique”

Franck Waille dit que les nombreuses versions des compendiums faits par Delsarte et existant dans le fonds de la LSU permettent d’approcher le cadre théorique delsartien et de voir comment celui-ci est directement structuré par l’anthropologie et la théologie de Thomas d’Aquin ainsi que par l’approche du légendaire Hermès Trismégiste. « Et d’autres documents rendent compte de l’aspect éclectique d’un personnage absolument inclassable, comme ses recherches sur les couleurs, ses tableaux attestant de sa formation à l’homéopathie, ses recherches poétiques autour des qualités de la voix, son analyse de la résonance des sons dans la bouche et dans le corps, ses inventions mécaniques (comme le Sono-type), ses partitions, et ses poèmes sentimentaux ou mystiques. »

Depuis une trentaine d’années, il y a un renouveau d’intérêt pour François Delsarte et pour son travail en Europe, et plus particulièrement en France. Cela se traduit par de nombreux travaux universitaires en France, en Italie et en Allemagne, ainsi que par divers colloques et plusieurs publications. Par ailleurs, il existe aujourd’hui essentiellement deux transmetteurs de la pratique artistique de Delsarte, Joe Williams en Amérique et Franck Waille en Europe. Il est possible d’avoir un aperçu du travail de transmission de Joe Williams sur sa page Facebook, The Delsarte Project, et son site, www.DelsarteProject.com , et de celui de Franck Waille sur le site de la compagnie Chorâme (François Delsarte Aujourd’hui) www.chorame.sitew.com/. On peut se mettre en contact avec Franck Waille en s’adressant à franck.cw@gmail.com.

 


 

French Researcher Highlights Importance of LSU’s Delsarte Papers

Franck Waille is the author of the first doctoral dissertation in French on François Delsarte, a dissertation that marked an important stage in understanding the life and teachings of this French artist whose works modernized dramatic arts in the West. A specialist in history currently doing a postdoc at the University of Quebec at Montreal (UQAM), Waille affirms that the LSU collection popularly known as the “Delsarte Papers” (François Alexandre Nicolas Delsarte Papers, Mss. 1301) was the principal source of documentation for his dissertation, Body, Arts and Spirituality in François Delsarte (1811-1871). Some Dynamic Interactions, defended in 2009 at Lyon University 3 (France).

Des notes dans le Fonds Delsarte / Notes from the Delsarte Papers

Having conducted his research at Hill Memorial Library in 2006, Waille notes that “LSU’s Delsarte Papers is the preeminent collection in the world housing documents relating to Delsarte. In France, Delsartian archives are scattered between public collections that are relatively lacking in documents and private collections that are sometimes scarcely identifiable or difficult to access. Quebec possesses the papers of one of Delsarte’s Quebecker students, Thomas-Étienne Hamel, in the Seminary of Quebec Archives. In the USA, numerous documents concerning Delsarte exist at Dartmouth College’s Rauner Special Collections (Hanover, New Hampshire), but in far less quantity than at Hill Memorial Library. That’s because the bulk of the documents bought in Paris from the Delsarte family in 1872 by James Morrison Steele Mackaye and Reverend William Rounseville Alger were filed here. The memory of this artist owes much to the USA, which not only perpetuated and disseminated his teachings but also allowed very numerous records to be preserved to our day in very good condition and rendered easily accessible to researchers. Among these, I have had the privilege of being the one to have spent the most time on the Louisiana Delsartian archives (three and a half months), without exhausting the material, it being that abundant.”

As Waille remarks, the documents in the Delsarte Papers are very disparate, ranging from simple sheets of paper or envelopes on which sketches or sentences appear to very detailed notebooks or to transcriptions of series of lectures done by Delsarte between 1858 and 1868. “Single sheets of paper can be mines of major information,” he adds. “That was the case with two simple autobiographical pages from which I was able to reconstruct a part of Delsarte’s biography.” Furthermore, “his drawings and sketches associated with textual passages permit us to attribute to him with certainty much physical education transmitted under his name but declared by MacKaye (and his family) as originating with [MacKaye] and not with Delsarte.”

Waille says that the many versions of compendiums done by Delsarte and existing in the LSU collection allow one to understand more fully the Delsartian theoretical context and to see how it is directly built upon St. Thomas Aquinas’s anthropology and theology as well as upon Hermes Trismegistus’s work. “And other documents show the eclectic side of an absolutely unclassifiable individual, such as his research on colors, his charts attesting to his training in homeopathy, his poetical research on qualities of voice, his analysis of the resonance of sounds in the mouth and in the body, his mechanical inventions (such as the ‘Sono-type’), his musical scores, and his sentimental or mystical poems.”

Over the past 30 years, mainly in Europe and especially in France, there has been a renewed interest in François Delsarte and his work. That has resulted in many university projects in France, Italy, and Germany as well as various symposiums and a number of publications. Moreover, today there are basically two communicators of Delsarte’s artistic practice: Joe Williams in America and Franck Waille in Europe. It is possible to get an idea of Joe Williams’ work of transmission on his Facebook page, The Delsarte Project, and his webpage, www.DelsarteProject.com, and of Waille’s at www.chorame.sitew.com, the website for Compagnie Chôrame (François Delsarte Aujourd’hui). One may also contact Franck Waille at franck.cw@gmail.com.

You may view the Finding Aid for the François Delsarte Papers (Mss. 1301) here.

 

 

 

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