The Gargantuan Polity

The Gargantuan Polity: On The Individual and the Community in the French Renaissance

MICHAEL RANDALL
Copyright Date: 2008
DOI: 10.3138/9781442688155
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/9781442688155
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The Gargantuan Polity
    Book Description:

    The Gargantuan Polityexamines political, legal, theological, and literary texts in the late Middle Ages, to show how individuals were defined by contracts of mutual obligation, which allowed rulers to hold power due to approval of their subjects.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8815-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. [Illustrations]
    (pp. xiii-2)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 3-18)

    Today it has almost become a psychological tic to think of the modern individual as coming into being during the Renaissance.¹ However, if the sixteenth century was the midwife of the modern individual, understood as an autonomous and subjective agent, it was also the gravedigger of another, less subjectively defined one. In literary and political texts of the period, traces of a premodern individual, understood less in terms of interior consciousness than in terms of political consciousness defined by bonds of mutual obligation, abound. Throughout such texts, individuals of this kind are seen playing a very important role in the...

  7. 1 Bottom-Up vs Top-Down Polities: The Council and the Pope
    (pp. 19-40)

    The Councils of Basel and Constance were among the most important examples of an ‘ascending-theme’ type of government in the Middles Ages. Both of these councils clearly anchored ecclesiastical sovereignty in an assembly of the faithful, orcongregatio fidelium. Constance, which was convened in 1414 in order to bring an end to the schism that had divided the church between Rome and Avignon since 1378, and Basel, convened in 1431, insisted on the consensual nature of ecclesiastical politics. According to the council fathers of Constance and Basel, the ecclesiastical polity was made up of a congregation of the faithful whose...

  8. 2 The Representation of Basel in Chants Royaux Written for the Puy de Rouen
    (pp. 41-83)

    Words and images can give explicit shape and meaning to the ideas developed by writers such as Cajetan and the authors of the edicts at the Councils of Constance and Basel. Poems written to extol the glory of the Virgin Mary for a literary competition in Rouen during the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries show how the perception of the church polity shifted from one that reflected the somewhat cacophonous reality of Basel to one that reflected the more organic conceptions of Cajetan. These poems, and their manuscript illuminations, often refer to Basel since this is where the doctrine...

  9. 3 Late-Medieval Polity and Poetics: Jean Molinet’s Ressource du petit peuple
    (pp. 84-120)

    One of the great differences between modern ‘subjective’ individualism and its older, more ‘objective’ form concerns voice. When a poet speaks in a modern lyrical poem, he or she is thought to express a strong internal or subjective feeling. But what happens when a poet does not have that kind of interior state to begin with? This is a question that could be asked of the Burgundian court poet, Jean Molinet, who was theindiciaire, or official historiographer, for Charles the Bold and his Austrian successor, Maximilian. Molinet’s poems are resolutely turned outward, towards the community in which he wrote....

  10. 4 The King’s Two Portraits in Claude de Seyssel and Guillaume Cretin
    (pp. 121-147)

    As political organization shifted from a contractual to a more organic model in the sixteenth century, the evolution of an objective individual into a more subjective one affected prince and poet in similar ways. A little-known poem written by Guillaume Cretin after the humiliating defeat of the French forces at the Battle of Pavia in 1525 offers two very different understandings of the evolving power of the king and the role of the poet. The poem,L’ Apparition du mareschal sans reproche, feu messire Jacques de Chabannes(1525), represents the king first as being a party to a contractual relation...

  11. 5 Barthélemy de Chasseneuz and the Top-Down Polity
    (pp. 148-168)

    One of the most crucial steps in the creation of the modern individual, according to scholars such as Dumont, was the development of a contractual society from an older, more organic one. It will be remembered that Dumont, alluding to Otto Gierke, explained that modern society is based on a contractual model of social organization, what he calledsocietas, which is opposed to a more organic society, which he calleduniversitas. In this later kind of society, the kind of personal autonomy which is used to distinguish the modern individual was not possible. Paradoxically, since much of the political theory...

  12. 6 Rabelais and the Ideal Imperfect Polity
    (pp. 169-200)

    François Rabelais describes many types of society in his novels, from the benevolent and highly human kingdoms of Pantagruel inPantagruel(1532) and of Grandgousier and Gargantua inGargantua(1534), to the much more problematic realms of the Papimanes and the Papefigues in theQuart Livre(1552). Though it is difficult to describe what a Rabelaisian society is, we can surmise two contrasting models of social organization in the novels.¹ On the one hand, there are the old-fashioned, yet forward-thinking, realms of Grandgousier, Gargantua, and Pantagruel, in which individuals work constantly for the betterment of the public good. On the...

  13. 7 The Death of Consensual Politics and the Individual in Agrippa d’Aubigné
    (pp. 201-240)

    As France descended into a seemingly endless spiral of heartless savagery during the wars of religion in the 1570s, the question of political violence became increasingly important and ever more difficult. What did it mean for the king to apply violence to his subjects? The question divided those who believed in a contractual form of government, in which sovereignty was diffused throughout the body politic, and those who believed in a monarchical polis organized around the will of the king. In literary texts and political treatises from the period, the meaning of this political violence and the rhetoric used to...

  14. Conclusion
    (pp. 241-252)

    So the question remains: can we talk about the birth of the individual in the Renaissance? The answer would seem to depend on how the term ‘individual’ is understood, both by scholars in the twenty-first century, and by men and women in the early modern period. The texts studied here would seem to suggest that there was a shift in how the individual was understood during this period in France. In the fifteenth century, the individual understood himself as an object in, or as part of, a community made up of a vast and often complicated series of relationships with...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 253-340)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 341-362)
  17. Index
    (pp. 363-374)