John McKenna: Joan of Arc was a soldier, a mold-breaker. She was too, a girl adrift in a political world she didn’t fully understand or embrace. Cohen’s song about her concentrates on the human being, the uncertain one behind the armour. He views her as a woman pursued by fire until eventually, inevitably, that fire is her consuming passion. Cohen’s Joan is alone in her tent, the army dependent on her clarity of mind; a nation tied to her strategy. And what we find in that tent is a woman without interest in the war. Her armour no longer bright, without a man to get her through the night. She craves a wedding dress, something white, something at odds with the fighting about her. So, is Leonard Cohen saying a woman ultimately needs a man to be fulfilled?
I was thinking more of this sense of a destiny that human beings have and how they meet and marry their destiny…that there is this connection that we have with our – with the unfolding of our lives. I don’t want to suggest in that song [Joan of Arc] that what she really wanted to be was a housewife. What I mean to say is that as lonely and as solitudinous as she was she had to meet and be embraced by her destiny… Seen from the point of view of the woman’s movement she really does stand for something stunningly original and courageous. There’s a great chapter about her in Andrea Dworkin’s book, Intercourse. It’s a grand chapter on Joan of Arc and really a passionate evocation of what her real achievement was at the time to by-pass everything and to go right into the centre of activity. So I don’t mean to suggest that she really wanted a wedding ring and some kids and day-care.1
Leonard Cohen – Joan of Arc Featuring Julie Christensen
Frankfurt: May 27, 1993
Video from a1000kissesdeep
More About Leonard Cohen’s Joan of Arc
- Joan of Arc By Leonard Cohen – A Dossier
- Joan of Arc By Leonard Cohen: The Concert Performances – Including Some Duets You (Probably) Haven’t Heard
I am republishing selected posts from my former Leonard Cohen site, Cohencentric, here on AllanShowalter.com (these posts can be found at Leonard Cohen). This entry was originally posted June 10, 2015.