Sophie Adamson, associate professor of French and chair of the Department of World Languages and Cultures, spoke at the spring meeting of the American Association of Teachers of French.
Sophie Adamson with Davidson French professor, Homer Sutton[/caption]On the provocative cover of the “survivors’ issue,” the Prophet Mohammed holds a “Je suis Charlie” ("I am Charlie") sign under the words “Tout est pardonné” (“All is forgiven”). [/caption]Sophie Adamson presented a paper entitled « Charlie Hebdo et ses Caricaturistes: Héritiers d’une Longue Tradition Française » about the French satirical weekly newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, and its renowned caricaturists who were among the 12 victims of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris in January.
Adamson showed how political cartoonists for Charlie Hebdo, Le Canard Enchainé and even Le Monde, follow in the footsteps of a long history of French satirists who have faced menace and condemnation since the 18th century.
Just four days after the attacks, the outpouring of several million people who marched together in city streets across France exposed a national, visceral attachment to the right to free speech. Although one can find many examples of inconsistencies and abuses of that freedom, the public had never seen their French satirical press endure a massacre of this proportion.
It is reported that the two attackers were motivated by the newspaper’s criticisms of Islam and depictions of the prophet Mohammed. The irony is that the once-obscure satirical paper that printed 60,000 copies per week, sold over 5 million of their “survivors’ edition” after the assassinations with a provocative cover featuring the prophet Mohammed shedding a tear while holding a “Je suis Charlie” sign under the words: “Tout est pardonné” (“All is forgiven”).
Caricaturists Cabu, Charb, Honoré, Tignous, and Wolinski now join a pantheon of fallen French citizens whom many are calling heroes and martyrs with a steadfast belief in free speech.