Stolpe, Sven. The Maid of Orleans. New York: Pantheon Books, 1956. 

Sven Stolpe is a biographer who is known for writing about many other women from history, including Christina of Sweden.  Stolpe’s ­The Maid of Orleans is a narrative view, written in first person, of Joan of Arc’s life.  This book is very detailed in that it includes her parents’ lives leading up to the birth of Joan.  Each section of this book is titled by the time period in which it is written for.  It begins with the Hundred Years war and continues to talk up to Joan’s sainthood.  Stolpe gives a very vivid account of the struggles and triumphs of Joan of Arc. Many direct quotes are included as is a map of France from the time of Joan’s life.  Stolpe also examines many of the different legends about Joan’s life, making this book very neutral.       

As mentioned before Stolpe begins his biography of Joan by giving a background history of her family and the time of her life.  He writes about the struggles that France is going through during this time period.  Stolpe does not even mention Joan until the third chapter.  By doing so, Stolpe is creating the environment for the rest of what is to come.  It is a very precise introduction that keeps the attention of the audience.      

As Stolpe makes his way into the story of Joan, he is very specific not to lose the audience.  He writes as though the audience is illiterate about Joan of Arc and gives a very graphic version of Joan of Arc.  He does not focus on one particular aspect of Joan’s life but instead embraces all of her being.  Stolpe also does not tell the audience only about what Joan did, but also about the kind of person Joan was in her time period.  He writes, "Joan preferred household duties to tending the flocks, and proudly told her judges that there was no woman in Rouen whim she could not equal in needlecraft.  She never used bad language, confining herself to such exclamations as ‘sans faute,’ and during her short military career would use the equally harmless expression ‘par mon martin.’  When the church bells sounded she knelt and made the sign of the cross." (Stolpe 28).       

As Stolpe begins to write about Joan’s voices, he gives a very original perspective in which he will allow the "reader to be able to take his or her own stand over the question of illusion or reality" (Stolpe 51).  He does so by including an excerpt from a psychologist to determine whether Joan’s voices were clearly hallucinations or rational, in the reader’s opinion.  He writes about her allegiance to these voices and her virginity.

Stolpe writes about Joan confronting the King and her trip to Orleans with her new army and her sword.  He also takes into account many of the legends that accompany both of these events in Joan’s life.  There is much description about the battle of Orleans and really gives the reader a sense of certainty about Stolpe’s account.  There is a great deal of information on Joan’s capture and her trial included in this book.  It does not just talk about how Joan was captured and tried but also of the reaction of her peers and contemporaries.  Stolpe closes his book by looking at the death of Joan of Arc in a very impersonal but also emotional way.    

In conclusion, Stolpe’s portrayal of Joan of Arc’s life is very explanatory and does not leave the audience asking very many questions.  This book gives a great overview of Joan’s life without being too long.  Stolpe is able to keep the reader’s attention the whole time by not just giving his own account.  By including other accounts and beliefs of Joan’s life, Stolpe was able to make this a very entertaining biography.     

Annotated Bibliography

Bellito, Christopher M. "Book Reviews: Ancient and Medieval Joan of Arc by Regine Pernoud and Marie Clin." Catholic Historical Review (1999): 620.
This book review is not much more than a summary of the book.  It begins with a short summary of the life of Joan.  However, after the introduction it breaks the book into three parts and writes about the materials included in those parts.  It does not analyze the book or evaluate the arguments contained in the book

Burns, Mary M. "Book Reviews: Nonfiction." Horn Book Magazine (1998): 623-626. 
This review is a critical analysis of books by Josephine Poole and Diane Stanley.  It compares the differences of the books and also points out the similarities.  The author gives a good abstract of the arguments included in each book and does not incorporate much of a summary into the review.  This review is a good comparison of the two books.


Written by Karen Woods, November 2000
Last Revision: 2003 June 5

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