Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




The author Louis Pergaud (1882-1915) lived during a fascinating and complex period in the development of the French national identity. It was a time when various forms of nationalism, many fed by lingering memories of the disastrous defeat of 1870/71, came to exert an enormous influence on the evolution of political, social and artistic expression in France. La Guerre des boutons is an example of a literary work deeply marked by the nationalistic tendencies prevalent in Belle Époque France. Without being a nationalist manifesto, nor an allegory of the Franco-Prussian war, Pergaud’s novel is founded in a popular nationalism which developed within an intellectual and political context shaped by the memory of the “année terrible” (1870/71), and which promoted an attachment to a so-called ancestral homeland, in-group/out-group rivalry, as well as the policies of “revenge” and “national defense”. The research that went into supporting this thesis was firmly anchored in the belief that, though La Guerre des boutons may be appreciated as a text in isolate, it is best understood when viewed within a broad setting. Therefore, in addition to analyzing structural, thematic, textual and paratexual aspects of Pergaud’s novel, the present study draws heavily from the works of eminent historians, sociologists and linguists, as well as literary sources, in order to better understand the relationship between La Guerre des boutons and its context. In demonstrating the depth and sincerity of the nationalism underlying Louis Pergaud’s novel, this thesis challenges the notion that La Guerre des boutons is simply a “coming of age” story. It also questions the validity of interpretations that identify La Guerre des boutons as primarily a satirical tale whose message is strongly anti-war. The recognition of the work’s nationalist underpinnings leads to the realization of a need for an in-depth reexamination of the character of this novel, as well as of its place within the literary spectrum.