Charles Péguy

Charles Pierre Péguy (French: [ʃaʁl peɡi]; 7 January 1873 – 5 September 1914) was a noted French poet, essayist, and editor. His two main philosophies were socialism and nationalism, but by 1908 at the latest, after years of uneasy agnosticism, he had become a believing but non-practicing Roman Catholic.[1][2][3] From that time, Catholicism strongly influenced his works.

Charles Péguy
Portrait of Charles Péguy, by Jean-Pierre Laurens, 1908
Portrait of Charles Péguy, by Jean-Pierre Laurens, 1908
BornCharles Pierre Péguy
7 January 1873
Orléans, France
Died5 September 1914 (aged 41)
Villeroy, France
Alma materÉcole Normale Supérieure


Péguy was born to poverty in Orléans.[4] His mother Cécile, widowed when he was an infant, mended chairs for a living. His father Désiré Péguy was a cabinet maker, who died in 1874 as a result of combat wounds. Péguy studied at the Lycée Lakanal in Sceaux, winning a scholarship at the École normale supérieure (Paris), where he attended notably the lectures of Henri Bergson and Romain Rolland, whom he befriended. He formally left without graduating, in 1897, though he continued attending some lectures in 1898. Influenced by Lucien Herr, librarian of the École Normale Supérieure, he became an ardent Dreyfusard.

In 1897, Péguy married Charlotte-Françoise Baudoin; they had one daughter and three sons, one of whom was born after Péguy's death. Around 1910 he fell deeply in love with Blanche Raphael, a young Jewish friend; however, he was faithful to his wife.

From his earliest years, he was influenced by socialism. He joined the Socialist Party in 1895. From 1900 until his death in 1914, he was the main contributor to and the editor of the literary magazine Les Cahiers de la Quinzaine, which at first supported the Socialist Party director Jean Jaurès. However, Péguy ultimately ended this support after he began viewing Jaurès as a traitor to the nation and to socialism. In the Cahiers, Péguy published not only his own essays and poetry, but also works by important contemporary authors such as Romain Rolland.

His free-verse poem, "Portico of the Mystery of the Second Virtue", has gone through more than 60 editions in France. It was a favorite book of Charles de Gaulle.

When the Great War broke out, Péguy became a lieutenant in the 19th company of the French 276th Infantry Regiment. He died in battle, shot in the forehead, near Villeroy, Seine-et-Marne on the day before the beginning of the Battle of the Marne.[5] There is a memorial to Péguy near the field where he was killed.

Monument Charles Peguy
Charles Péguy Memorial


Aktion 1914
Cover of Die Aktion with Péguy's portrait by Egon Schiele

Benito Mussolini referred to Péguy as a "source" for Fascism; Péguy would likely have been horrified by this appropriation.[6][7] During the Second World War both supporters and opponents of Vichy France cited Péguy. Edmond Michelet was the first of many members of the French Resistance to quote Péguy; de Gaulle, familiar with Péguy's writing, quoted him a 1942 speech. Those who opposed Vichy's anti-Semitism laws often cited him. By contrast, Robert Brasillach praised Péguy as a "French National Socialist", and Péguy's sons Pierre and Marcel wrote that their father was an inspiration for Vichy's National Revolution ideology and "above all, a racist".[8]

The English novelist Graham Greene alluded to Péguy in Brighton Rock, while The Heart of the Matter has as its epigraph a quotation from Péguy.[9] In The Lawless Roads Greene refers to Péguy "challenging God in the cause of the damned".[10]

The Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar, in the course of describing the history of art as an ongoing, sometimes more and sometimes less successful approximation of God's creativeness, noted that Peguy's Eve was a "theological redemption of the project of Proust", meaning that where Proust was gifted with memory and charity, the Eve of Peguy – not necessarily Peguy himself – was gifted with memory, charity, and direct knowledge of the redemption of God.[11]

Geoffrey Hill published a poem in 1983 as a homage to Péguy, entitled The Mystery of the Charity of Charles Péguy.[12]

Famous quotations

"The sinner is at the very heart of Christianity. Nobody is so competent as the sinner in matters of Christianity. Nobody, except the saint." This is the epigraph to Graham Greene's novel The Heart of the Matter (1951).[13]

"It will never be known what acts of cowardice have been committed for fear of not looking sufficiently progressive." (Notre Patrie, 1905)

"Tyranny is always better organised than freedom".[14]

"Kantian ethics has clean hands but, in a manner of speaking, actually no hands."[15]

"How maddening, says God, it will be when there are no longer any Frenchmen."[16]

"There will be things that I do that no one will be left to understand." (Le Mystère des saints Innocents)

"It is impossible to write ancient history because we do not have enough sources, and impossible to write modern history because we have too many". (Clio, 1909)

"Everything begins in mysticism and ends in politics." (Notre Jeunesse, 1909)



  • (1901). De la Raison.
  • (1902). De Jean Coste.
  • (1905). Notre Patrie.
  • (1907–08). Situations.
  • (1910). Notre Jeunesse.
  • (1910). Victor-Marie, Comte Hugo.
  • (1911). Un Nouveau Théologien.
  • (1913). L'Argent.
  • (1913). L'Argent Suite.
  • (1914). Note sur M. Bergson et la Philosophie Bergsonienne.
  • (1914). Note Conjointe sur M. Descartes et la Philosophie Cartésienne (posth.)
  • (1931). Clio. Dialogue de l'Histoire et de l'âme Païenne (posth.)
  • (1972). Véronique. Dialogue de l'Histoire et de l'âme Charnelle. Paris: Gallimard (posth.)


  • (1912). Le Porche du Mystère de la Deuxième Vertu.
  • (1913). La Tapisserie de Sainte Geneviève et de Jeanne d'Arc.
  • (1913). La Tapisserie de Notre-Dame.
  • (1913). Ève.


  • (1897). Jeanne d'Arc. Paris: Librairie de la Revue Socialiste.
  • (1910). Le Mystère de la Charité de Jeanne d'Arc.
  • (1912). Le Mystère des Saints Innocents.


  • (1927). Lettres et Entretiens (posth.)
  • (1980). Correspondance, 1905–1914: Charles Péguy – Pierre Marcel. Paris: Minard (posth.)

Collected Works

  • (1916–55). Œuvres Complètes de Charles-Péguy. Paris: Gallimard (20 vols.)
  • (1941). Œuvres Poétiques Complètes. Bibliothèque de la Pléiade: Gallimard.
  • (1987–92). Œuvres en Prose Complètes:
    • Tome I. Bibliothèque de la Pléiade: Gallimard, 1987.
    • Tome II. Bibliothèque de la Pléiade: Gallimard, 1988.
    • Tome III. Bibliothèque de la Pléiade: Gallimard, 1992.

Works in English translation

  • (1943). "Freedom," Commonweal, 8 January, p. 293.
  • (1943). Basic Verities. Prose and Poetry, Trans. by Ann and Julien Green. New York: Pantheon Books Inc.
  • (1944). Man and Saints. Prose and Poetry, Trans. by Ann and Julien Green. New York: Pantheon Books Inc.
  • (1950). The Mystery of the Charity of Joan of Arc, Trans. by Julien Green. New York: Pantheon Books Inc. [London: Hollis & Carter, 1950; Carcanet, 1986].
  • (1956). The Mystery of the Holy Innocents, Trans. by Pansy Pakenham. London: The Harvill Press [New York: Harper, 1956].
    • (1999). "The Mystery of the Holy Innocents," Communio 26 (2).
  • (1958). Temporal and Eternal, Tran. by Alexander Dru. London: The Harvill Press [New York: Harper, 1958; Liberty Fund, 2001].
  • (1964). A Vision of Prayer. Mount Saint Bernard Abbey: Saint Bernard Press.
  • (1965). God Speaks. New York: Pantheon Books Inc.
  • (1970). The Portico of the Mystery of the Second Virtue, Trans. by Dorothy Brown Aspinwall. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press.
    • (1994). "On the Mystery of Hope," Communio 21 (3).
    • (1996). The Portal of the Mystery of Hope, Trans. by David Louis Schindler Jr. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark [Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2003; Continuum, 2005].
  • (2009). "On Money," Communio 36 (3).


  1. ^ "Peguy's Catholicism was closely allied with his love of France. Of him, as also of Psichari, it might almost be said that they were Catholics because they were Frenchmen. A non-Catholic Frenchman seemed a monstrosity, something cut off from the true life of his country. Some Catholicism is international or indifferent to country, with almost the motto, 'What matters country so long as the Church survives?' But that is not the Catholicism of these young Frenchmen, nor the Catholicism of the recent religious revival." – Rawlinson, Gerald Christopher (1917). "Charles Péguy," in Recent French Tendencies from Renan to Claudel. London: Robert Scott, p. 121.
  2. ^ "In France the classic type of the fervent but non-practising Catholic was probably best represented by Charles Péguy". — Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Erik von (1952). Liberty or Equality. Caldwell, Idaho: The Caxton Printers, Ltd., p. 194.
  3. ^ Ralph McInerny. "Charles Péguy" Archived 30 May 2010 at the Wayback Machine, 2005.
  4. ^ MacLeod, Catriona (1937). "Charles Péguy (1873–1914)," The Irish Monthly, Vol. 65, No. 770, pp. 529–541.
  5. ^ Schmitt, Hans (1953). "Charles Péguy: The Man and the Legend, 1873–1953," Chicago Review, Vol. 7, No. 1, pp. 24–37.
  6. ^ Sternhell, Zeev (1994). The Birth of Fascist Ideology: From Cultural Rebellion to Political Revolution. Princeton University Press. p. 35. ISBN 0-691-03289-0.
  7. ^ Zaretsky, Robert (1996). "Fascism: the Wrong Idea," The Virginia Quarterly Review, pp. 149-155.
  8. ^ Jackson, Julian (2001). France: The Dark Years, 1940–1944. Oxford University Press. pp. 4–5. ISBN 0-19-820706-9.
  9. ^ Grahame C. Jones, "Graham Greene and the Legend of Péguy". Comparative Literature, XXI(2), Spring 1969, pp. 138–40.
  10. ^ Quoted by Grahame C. Jones, in "Graham Greene and the Legend of Péguy", fn2, p. 139.
  11. ^ Nichols, Aidan. The Word Has Been Abroad. p. 125. Catholic University Press, 1998
  12. ^ Hill, Geoffrey (1985). Notes – Collected Poems. London: Penguin Books.
  13. ^ Mooney, Harry John; Thomas F. Staley (1964). The Shapeless God: Essays on Modern Fiction. University of Pittsburgh Press. p. 51.
  14. ^ Gabay, J. Jonathan (2005). Gabay's Copywriters' Compendium: The Definitive Professional Writer's Guide. Butterworth-Heinemann. p. 524. ISBN 0-7506-8320-1.
  15. ^ Rrenban, Monad (2005). Wild, Unforgettable Philosophy: In Early Works of Walter Benjamin. Lexington Books. p. 210. ISBN 0-7391-0845-X.
  16. ^ Gannon, Martin J.; Rajnandini Pillai; et al. (2013). Understanding Global Cultures: Metaphorical Journeys Through 31 Nations. Sage Publications. p. 231. ISBN 978-1-4129-9593-1.


  • Adereth, Maxwell (1967). Commitment in Modern French Literature: A Brief Study of 'Littérature Engagée' in the Works of Péguy, Aragon, and Sartre. London: Victor Gollancz.
  • Halévy, Daniel (1918). Charles Péguy et les Cahiers de la Quinzaine. Paris: Payot et Cie.
  • Jussem-Wilson, Nelly (1965). Charles Péguy. London: Barnes and Barnes.
  • Jorge Molinas Lara (2014). Crisis and commitment: Political ethics on Charles Péguy. The University of Valencia.
  • Moran, Sean Farrell (1989). "Patrick Pearse and the European Revolt Against Reason", The Journal of the History of Ideas,50, 4, 423–66
  • Mounier, Emmanuel (1931). La Pensée de Charles Péguy. Paris: Plon.
  • O'Donnell, Donat (1951). "The Temple of Memory: Péguy," The Hudson Review, Vol. 3, No. 4, pp. 548–574.
  • Rolland, Romain (1944). Péguy. Paris: A. Michel.
  • Schmitt, Hans A. (1967). Charles Péguy: The Decline of an Idealist. Louisiana State University Press.
  • Secrétain, Roger (1941). Péguy, Soldat de la Liberté. Montréal: Valiquette.
  • Servais, Yvonne (1950). "Charles Peguy and the Sorbonne: 1873–1914," Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review, Vol. 39, No. 154, pp. 159–170.
  • Servais, Yvonne (1953). Charles Péguy: The Pursuit of Salvation. Cork University Press.
  • Turquet-Milnes, G. (1921). "Charles Péguy," in Some Modern French Writers. A Study in Bergsonism. New York: Robert M. McBride & Company, pp. 212–241.
  • Villiers, Marjorie (1965). Charles Péguy: A Study in Integrity. Londres: Collins.

External links

André Wilmart

Dom André Wilmart O.S.B. (1876 – 21 April 1941 Paris) was a French Benedictine medievalist and liturgist, who spent most of his career at St Michael's Abbey, Farnborough. He was a leading expert on medieval spirituality in the decades between the World Wars. He studied at the University of Paris and the seminary of Saint-Sulpice at Issy. After an extended stay at the Abbey of Solesmes, he decided to become a monk, making his profession in 1901. Shortly after he entered Solesmes, the monks left for England due to ongoing conflict between the Catholic Church and the government of the Third Republic. Wilmart was ordained as a priest in 1906. Soon afterwards he was sent to Farnborough, which was his home for the rest of his life. In addition to Wilmart's work as a scholar, he knew and was influenced by Catholic public intellectuals such as Charles Péguy and Baron von Hügel.Wilmart's most significant work is Auteurs spirituels et textes dévots du moyen âge latin (Paris: Bloud et Gay, 1932, reissued by Brepols, 1971), which remains an important handbook on the topic. Among other discoveries, he is responsible for recovering the works of John of Fécamp. He was chosen to edit a catalogue of the Reginensis manuscript collection in the Vatican Library (the manuscripts of Queen Christina of Sweden), which became his major project in the 1930s. He was a Corresponding Fellow of the Medieval Academy of America from 1928. He was the author of more than 375 books and articles; a complete bibliography was published a separate book.

Anne Green

Anne Green (born 1891, Savannah, Georgia, d. 1979, Paris) was an American writer and translator, the sister of Julien Green. While a child, Green's parents moved to France, where her father, ruined by a financial crisis and poor investments, came to settle. She spent her childhood in Le Havre, before her parents moved to Paris, where her brother Julien was born. She and her brother both participated in World War I, in which she volunteered as an ambulance driver.Her best known work is the 1948 With Much Love, a fictionalized account of her childhood memories. She wrote fifteen novels and several volumes of short stories, most in her native English. She collaborated with her brother Julien in translating works by other authors, such as Charles Péguy, as well as his own works.

Coulée verte René-Dumont

The Coulée verte René-Dumont or Promenade plantée (French for tree-lined walkway) or the Coulée verte (French for green course) is a 4.7 km (2.9 mi) elevated linear park built on top of obsolete railway infrastructure in the 12th arrondissement of Paris, France. It was inaugurated in 1993.

Emmanuel Mounier

Emmanuel Mounier (; French: [munje]; 1 April 1905 – 22 March 1950) was a French philosopher, theologian, teacher and essayist.

Ernst Stadler

Ernst Stadler (11 August 1883 — 30 October 1914) was a German Expressionist poet. He was born in Colmar, Alsace-Lorraine and educated in Strasbourg and Oxford; in 1906 he was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to study at Magdalen College, Oxford.His early verse was influenced by Stefan George and Charles Péguy, but after 1911, Stadler began developing a different style. His most important volume of poetry, Der Aufbruch, which appeared during 1914, is regarded as a major work of early Expressionism. The poems of Der Aufbruch are a celebration of the poet's joy in life and are written in long, free verse lines inspired by the example of Walt Whitman.Stadler was killed in battle at Zandvoorde near Ypres in the early months of World War I.

Francisco Luis Bernárdez

Francisco Luis Bernárdez (5 October 1900 – 24 October 1978) was an Argentine poet, born in Buenos Aires.

He lived in Spain from 1920 until 1924, where he read the modernist poets that influenced in his first books, and he also worked as a journalist in Vigo.

When he came back from Spain he joined the Martín Fierro group, which played an important part in the literary and aesthetical renovation of Argentine literature.

Later he worked in La Nación newspaper, and joined Criterio magazine. In 1937 he was named Public Library Secretary, and in 1944, General Director of Intellectual Culture of the Justice and Public Proceedings Ministry. Four years later, he entered the Academia Argentina de Letras. Finally, he was incorporated to the foreign service of Argentina, as a council of the Argentine embassy in Madrid, until 1960.

His first works, Orto (Dawn, 1922) and Bazar (Bazaar, 1922), written following the principles of ultraism, along with Alcándara (Perch, 1935), connected him to the postmodernist era, but since the publication of El buque (The Ship, 1935), he dealt with religious subjects with the classic style of Paul Claudel and Charles Péguy. This new phase is represented by works like Cielo de tierra (Earth Sky, 1937), La ciudad sin Laura (The Laura-less City, 1938), Poemas elementales (Elementary Poems, 1942), Poemas de carne y hueso (Flesh and Blood Poems, 1943), El ruiseñor (The Nightingale, 1945), Las estrellas (The Stars, 1947), El ángel de la guarda (The Guardian Angel, 1949), Poemas nacionales (National Poems, 1950), La flor (The Flower, 1951), Tres poemas católicos (Three Catholic Poems, 1959), Poemas de cada día (Everyday Poems, 1963) and La copa de agua (The Cup of Water, 1963).

Geneviève Fraisse

Geneviève Fraisse (born October 1948 in Paris) is a French philosopher and an historian of feminist thought.

She was born within Murs blancs ((in French) "White walls"), a community founded by Emmanuel Mounier at Châtenay-Malabry. Her parents, Paul Fraisse (an author of books of experimental psychology) and Simone Fraisse (an author of books on Charles Péguy, Ernest Renan, and Simone Weil), were both professors at the Sorbonne. After May 1968, she helped Jacques Rancière create the journal Les Révoltes logiques ((in French) "Logical revolts"). Author of numerous books, her work focuses on the history of the controversy of the sexes from an epistemological and political viewpoint.

Her research led her to postulate concepts on the "domestic", "exclusive democracy," "women of reason", the "two governments", the "mixing of the sexes" and, more recently, "consent". The complexity of the debate on gender led her to work closely with the historians, particularly on the synthesis of the history of women in the West. Seen as a leader of contemporary thought, her idea of gender equality lies between theory and practice, elaborating concepts from contemporary history.

Geneviève Fraisse has been an interministerial delegate on women's rights from 1997 to 1998 and a Member of European Parliament from 1999 to 2004, as an independent member of the European United Left / Nordic Green Left. She took the initiative of two parliamentary agendas, one on the performing arts, the other on women and sport. Since 2004, Geneviève Fraisse has also been a producer at France Culture (Europe ideas).

Geneviève Fraisse joined the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) in 1983. She helped create the International College of Philosophy (1984). She was Visiting Scholar at the Institute for Advanced Study in 1990. A doctor, she has been director of research at CNRS since 1997 and visiting professor at Rutgers University (USA, 2000–2002). She was also president of the Scientific Committee of the Institut Emilie du Châtelet from 2006 to 2010. From 2011 to 2013, she gave a Master Class at Science-Po Paris, "Pensée des sexes et démocratie", with the program PRESAGE (Programme de Recherche et de Savoir sur le Genre).

Glued to the Box

Glued to the Box (TV Criticism from the Observer 1979–1982), is the third and final collection of the television criticism Clive James wrote for The Observer. It includes material from articles that run from 2 December 1979 to 28 March 1982. In the Introduction he writes that he had, "never thought of television criticism as a career. It is the sort of thing one goes into with a whole heart but not for ones whole life." The volume finishes with his "standing up and moving aside" for his successor, Julian Barnes. "No doubt he will slag one of my programmes first chance he gets, but by then I will be in the habit of damning all critics as fools." The London Review of Books wrote: "Along with its two predecessors, (Visions Before Midnight and The Crystal Bucket), it will stand as a once-only critical phenomenon: ten years worth of high intelligence and wit." Sheridan Morley called him "far and away the funniest writer in regular Fleet Street employment." The book is dedicated to Pat Kavanagh and Dan Kavanagh and carries an epigraph from Charles Péguy at its start.

Hussard noir

The Hussard Noir (Black Hussars) was a nickname given to school teachers in the early 20th century in the French Third Republic. Coined by Charles Péguy to refer to student-teachers because of their long black coats the name also makes reference to the infamous hussars. Tasked in 1862 to teach after the enactment of the Jules Ferry laws which rendered school both mandatory and secular. Owing to the tradition of adding a suffix to the end of a Hussar regiment's title (such as the revolutionary wars' Hussars of Liberty) they would acquire their frightful name Black hussars of the republic and Black hussars of severity. These nicknames arose from the tensions of teaching their largely illiterate and catholic students republican and secular values as well the increasing their duty in boosting the militaristic spirits of their pupils preceding the Franco-Prussian War and irrenditism in its wake.

Lucien Herr

Lucien Herr (17 January 1864 – 18 May 1926) was a French intellectual, librarian at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris, and mentor to a number of well-known socialist politicians and writers, including Jean Jaurès and Charles Péguy. He was a leading strategist in the Dreyfusard cause (seeking to overturn the wrongful conviction for treason of Captain Alfred Dreyfus).

Lycée Bartholdi (Saint-Denis, Seine-Saint-Denis)

Lycée Professionnel Frédéric Bartholdi is a vocational senior high school in Saint-Denis, Seine-Saint-Denis, France, in the Paris metropolitan area. As of 2016 it has 800 students.

Lycée Flora Tristan (Noisy-le-Grand)

Lycée Flora Tristan is a French senior high school/sixth-form college in Noisy-le-Grand, in the Paris metropolitan area.

Lycée Robert Schuman (Dugny)

Lycée Robert Schuman is a Catholic private senior high school/sixth-form college in Dugny, Seine-Saint-Denis, France, in the Paris metropolitan area.

Christian engineers established the school in 1920.

Lycée Évariste Galois (Noisy-le-Grand)

Lycée Évariste Galois is a French senior high school/sixth-form college in Noisy-le-Grand, in the Paris metropolitan area.

Station Jardin Public (Tram de Bordeaux)

Jardin Public station is located on line of the tramway de Bordeaux.

Station Quinconces (Tram de Bordeaux)

Quinconces station is located on line and line in Bordeaux. This stations serves as a connection to line . 19 November 2007, line C has been extended to Quinconces by way of Grand Parc.


Thiais (French pronunciation: ​[tjɛ]) is a commune in the southern suburbs of Paris, France. It is located 10.3 km (6.4 mi) from the center of Paris.The name Thiais comes from Medieval Latin Theodasium or Theodaxium, meaning "estate of Theodasius", a Gallo-Roman landowner.

The Austrian writer Joseph Roth, exiled due to his opposition to the Nazi regime, lived at Thiais at the end of the 1930s and is buried at the local cemetery. The tomb of Russian writer Yevgeny Zamyatin is also there. Expatriate American journalist and novelist William Gardner Smith died there in 1974.

École normale supérieure (Paris)

The École normale supérieure (French pronunciation: ​[ekɔl nɔʁmal sypeʁjœʁ]; also known as Normale sup', Ulm, ENS Paris, l'École and most often just as ENS) is one of the most selective and prestigious French grandes écoles (higher education establishment outside the framework of the public university system). It has been a member of PSL Research University since 2010.

It was initially conceived during the French Revolution and was intended to provide the Republic with a new body of professors, trained in the critical spirit and secular values of the Enlightenment. It has since developed into an institution which has become a platform for a select few of France's students to pursue careers in government and academia. Founded in 1794 and reorganised by Napoleon, ENS has two main sections (literary and scientific) and a competitive selection process consisting of written and oral examinations. During their studies, ENS students hold the status of paid civil servants.The principal goal of ENS is the training of professors, researchers and public administrators. Among its alumni there are 13 Nobel Prize laureates including 8 in Physics (ENS has the highest proportion of Nobel laureates among its alumni of any institution worldwide), 12 Fields Medalists (the most of any university in the world), more than half the recipients of the CNRS's Gold Medal (France's highest scientific prize), several hundred members of the Institut de France, and scores of politicians and statesmen. The school has achieved particular recognition in the fields of mathematics and physics as one of France's foremost scientific training grounds, along with notability in the human sciences as the spiritual birthplace of authors such as Julien Gracq, Jean Giraudoux, Assia Djebar, and Charles Péguy, philosophers such as Henri Bergson, Jean-Paul Sartre, Louis Althusser, Simone Weil, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Alain Badiou, social scientists such as Émile Durkheim, Raymond Aron, and Pierre Bourdieu, and "French theorists" such as Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida. The school's students are often referred to as normaliens.

The ENS is a grande école and, as such, is not part of the mainstream university system, although it maintains extensive connections with it. The vast majority of the academic staff hosted at ENS belong to external academic institutions such as the CNRS, the EHESS and the University of Paris. This mechanism for constant scientific turnover allows ENS to benefit from a continuous stream of researchers in all fields. ENS full professorships are rare and competitive. Generalistic in its recruitment and organisation, the ENS is the only grande école in France to have departments of research in all the natural, social, and human sciences. Its status as one of the foremost centres of French research has led to its model being replicated elsewhere, in France (at the ENSes of Lyon, Paris-Saclay, and Rennes), in Italy (at the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa), in Romania, in China and in former French colonies such as Morocco, Mali, Mauritania, and Cameroon.

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