The Power of Joan
A few months ago, my wife’s book discussion group was reading Mark Twain’s neglected classic Joan of Arc. This novel purports to be the recollections of Sieur Louis de Conte, Joan’s playmate in childhood and later her secretary. Twain employs this fictional narrator skillfully to tie together Joan’s diverse lives with his personal recollections of all the events and characters.
Some readers will be in a hurry to get to the scenes of battle and court intrigue, but I lingered over charming episodes of village life, in which the illiterate farm child develops her skill at persuasion and begins to show her gift of prophecy. Soon enough the narrator goes on to the thrilling saga of the unlikely military hero who freed France from the English occupation that had followed Henry V’s victory at Agincourt, and at last the tragic courtroom drama starring the martyr who brilliantly defended herself unassisted against an array of theologians and doctors of law in the most famous trial of the Middle Ages.
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Phillip E. Johnson is Professor of Law (emeritus) at the University of California at Berkeley. He is the author of Darwin on Trial, The Wedge of Truth, The Right Questions (InterVarsity Press), and other books challenging the naturalistic assumptions that dominate modern culture. He is a contributing editor of Touchstone.
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