Nightwatch: Time, Emergency, and the French Revolution


Location: McKenna Hall, Room 112–114

Marie-Hélène Huet, M. Taylor Pyne Professor of French and Italian, Princeton University

Huet will address the fascinating conundrum of regular time and revolutionary time. She will explain how the French revolutionaries invented a new calendar and form of time that was legislated for the country. The Republican Calendar was officially adopted in France on October 24, 1793—and abolished on January 1, 1806, by Emperor Napoleon I. It was used again briefly under the Paris Commune in 1871. The French also established a new clock, in which the day was divided into ten hours of one hundred minutes each, with one hundred seconds per minute—totaling exactly 100,000 seconds per day.

Huet will also go into the personal history of the man behind these inventions, Gilbert Romme, whose extraordinary life brings together many of the controversies of this tumultuous age.

A reception will follow the lecture.

Huet is the author of numerous works on the Enlightenment, romanticism, and the French Revolution in the arts, including Mourning Glory: The Will of the French Revolution (1997) and Monstrous Imagination (1993), which won the Harry Levin prize in Comparative Literature.