1. Do you agree with Robert Finlay that Natalie Zemon Davis's "entire basis for claiming that the wife was in league with the impostor" is in their sexual relations? (Finlay, 558)
In her response, Davis claims that "the implications for Bertrande's knowledge and intentions are stronger for certain elements than for others, but together they make a good and very plausible case for collaboration" (576). Do you agree that weak evidence can be used in historical writing as long as is it combined with stronger evidence?
2. Though Davis defends most of the Protestant aspects of her narrative, she does not address what Finlay considers a lack of evidence for the speculation that "local Protestant sympathizers tended to believe the new Martin and the Catholics tended to believe Pierre Guerre." (Finlay, 564) How do you think she came to this conclusion? Do you think it was appropriate to include it in the text?
1. The difference between the roles of Cora Bertrande as victim and accomplice suppose different assumptions about the position of women in medieval society. How do these two different views, contemporary to the event and Davis’ modern interpretation, reflect differing attitudes towards women? What role do social norms play in affecting the perspective of historical sources?
2. How does Natalie Davis use the particular case of Martin Guerre to shed light on peasant society in the mid-1500s? Is this approach as accurate as a more general historical survey?
1. What important details regarding Davis's approach to the material/the story in general does she reveal in the preface/epilogue? How does she further emphasize this in her response to Finlay's criticism?
2. Why does Natalie Zemon Davis include so much about Coras and why does she include this material at the end of the story, rather than within it?
3. Robert Finlay offers a very different explanation than Davis. What does this case of contrasting interpretations imply for the study of history? Do you feel that her response to his criticism was effective? Or do you side with any of Finlay's points?
The Author talks about average people and tells a personal story of Martin Guerre. What kinds of things can we learn by studying their personal life? Why was it so important to write the story of Martin Guerre?
2. What does the Davis tell us about 16th century?
1. How effective are Davis' applications of psychology in understanding the motives of her "characters" and of the historcal event at large? Consider her usage of social and cultural conventions, the construction of identity, and collective psychology to "try to construct their stance toward the world" ("On the Lame," 598). Does this provide a deeper understanding of history or do these psychological "conjectures" cloud the facts of the event?
2. How much creative license should be awarded historians with limited sources? Is this a good method of drawing in a wide spectrum of readers, including those outside the field of history, or does it hinder the study of history by adding some fictional or conjectural elements?
1. Is Finlay’s argument against Davis’ interpretation and inferences about Bertrande de Rols’ involvement in Arnaud de Tilh’s deception convincing considering his use of sources? Are his disagreements methodological or ideological?
2. Is Davis’ argument about Bertrande de Rols’ involvement convincing considering that her perspective is of a woman in the 20th century attempting to deduce the motivations of a woman in the 16th century?
3. What did Bertrande’s and the ‘true’ Martin’s relatives have to gain from the exposure of Arnaud de Tilh as an imposter before the ‘true’ Martin returned?
1. What is Davis trying to add to the study of the case of Martin Guerre with her analysis? Does her depiction of events add new depth to an old story, or is it simply evidence of changing views throughout time (consider our discussion last week about a text being only evidence of itself)?
2. Who do you think made a more convincing case for their views, Davis or Finlay? What was your own opinion on the case after reading all three documents?
Davis makes extensive use of the concept of "self-fashioning" when discussing Bertrande, Arnaud and the creation of the couple. Can we think of of any other historians or analysis that have made use of this concept as well? Could it be applied to explain other historical figures or phenomenons?
Finlay states "she (Davis) imposes her notion of peasant women on Bertrande". Do you think that both Cora's and Davis' view on Bertrande are directly linked on their view of women in general? Do you think Davis "wants" to view Bertrande as more capable than Cora claims in his analysis?
1) Do you agree with Finlay that some of Natalie Zemon Davies interpretation of the situation does not have enough factual basis? or does her defence of her ideas show enough evidence to support her findings?
2) Which school of historical thought does the book the return of Martin Guerre fit into?