Earthly Treasures

Earthly Treasures: Material Culture and Metaphysics in the Heptameron and Evangelical Narrative

Catharine Randall
Copyright Date: 2007
Published by: Purdue University Press
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Earthly Treasures
    Book Description:

    arthly Treasures maps the presence, position and use in the narrative of a variety of material objects in Marguerite de Navarre's Heptameron. There is a wide selection of objects, ranging from tapestries with scripture passages woven into the borders, fine arts paintings, chalices incised with proverbs, emblems, table linens, copies of Bibles or manuscripts, clothing, masks, stage props, jewelry, furniture and foodstuffs. Although the presence of such material objects seems paradoxical, given the scriptural mandate to disregard things of this world, and to "store up treasure", rather, in heaven, Marguerite found license to use such objects both in the Bible and in the daily life-oriented and artifact-studded sermons and writings collected in the Table Talk of Martin Luther.

    eISBN: 978-1-61249-105-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction Objects of Desire: Reading the Material World Metaphysically in Marguerite de Navarre’s Heptaméron
    (pp. 1-22)

    The early years of the sixteenth century were rich and complex, a time of extravagance, costuming, and courtly masques coupled with skepticism about worldliness due to theological reform movements.¹ Marguerite de Navarre’sHeptaméronparticipates in this complexity:² a collection of tales about often bawdy daily life, it is also a coherent, proselytizing work. As such, the text is a transitional document, both a reflection of its evangelical and Lutheran sociocultural context and a harbinger of the Calvinist movement as manifest in narrative, art, and artifacts. TheHeptaméronmakes innovative use of the material objects produced by the commodity culture of...

  6. Chapter One Telling Tableaux and Textual Resurrections: Marguerite de Navarre and the Evangelical Narrative
    (pp. 23-46)

    The Greek word for gospel,evangelion, derives from the same root as that of “gossip.”¹ Telling stories to narrate the Christian experience is thus both a theological and literary technique, and, appropriately, personal witnessing combined with scriptural references, metaphors, and anecdotes typifies sixteenth-century evangelical expression. Evangelical witness developed from a demand for the scriptural foundation and validation of the conversion experience. This focus infused the daily lives of believers with significance and encouraged the narrating of the relationship of the evangelical with God as he or she perceived it in lay life. The humanist emphasis on textual criticism, a return...

  7. Chapter Two Evangelical Dimensions in Decorative Arts: Emblems, Earthly Objects, and the Economy of Transcendence
    (pp. 47-76)

    Marguerite develops a hybrid narrative form in theHeptaméronby incorporating representations of material culture. Although Scripture labels such objects untrustworthy and illusory, earthly treasures, in the form of art objects and emblems, are very much in evidence in thenouvelles.However, this focus on things produces a very un-material effect, and facilitates a theological statement. Working with the Lutheran understanding of the hidden worth of materiality as a sign of what surpasses it, Marguerite uses material objects as markers of metaphysical meaning.

    In his 1519 treatiseThe Blessed Sacrament of the Holy and True Body of Christ,Martin Luther...

  8. Chapter Three A New Medium for a New Message: Evangelicals and Decorative Arts
    (pp. 77-110)

    The presence of Lutheran theology in France during the 1520s and 1530s influenced Marguerite to develop an evangelical narrative. This new narrative form also encompassed certain trends in contemporary decorative and fine arts.¹ Art historians recognize that “Fontainebleau was truly a school for the new culture in France. Fontainebleau also had an impact on the literary style of French culture.”² For a new message, a new medium is required. Similarly, the Gospel urges that new wineskins be found in which to store new wine. Realizing that the translation of Gospel truths into everyday language warranted a new format and idiom,...

  9. Chapter Four Of Tableware, Chalices, and Axeheads: The Evangelical Narrative and Transitory Treasures
    (pp. 111-147)

    The evangelical writer explicates characters and relationships in reference to things of the world; however, narrative problems arise from their presence, because the evangelical author remains ambivalent about objects, and cultivates an attitude of distrust about them. Charles Taylor explains the evangelical attitude toward objects in this way:

    God placed mankind over creation and made the things of the world for human use. But humans are there in turn to serve and glorify God, and so their use of things should serve this final goal. The consequence of sin is that humans come to be concerned with these things not...

  10. Chapter Five The Evangelical Narrative: Des Périers, Du Fail, and Yver
    (pp. 148-172)

    Other evangelicals¹ used strategies similar to those that Marguerite de Navarre devised in theHeptaméron. Bonaventure Des Périers, secretary to Marguerite de Navarre, shared her evangelical sympathies.² HisCymbalum mundiwas condemned by the Sorbonne in 1537 for “impieties.” In this and in other works can be discerned illustrations of evangelical theology, the influence of Marguerite and the influence of Rabelais.

    In theNouvelles récréations et joyeux devis(1558), in particular, stylistic similarities with theHeptaméronare evident. Very popular, theNouvelles récréationswent through thirteen editions between 1561 and 1615. Conceived during the Wars of Religion, it used storytelling...

  11. Chapter Six Earthly Treasures: Marguerite’s Mondain Monstrances
    (pp. 173-194)

    With the exception of theological applications, Randle Cotgrave’s above definition ofmonstreenumerates the uses that Marguerite finds for objects in theHeptaméron.The definition also implicitly suggests ways in which her evangelical distrust of those things has developed. Its several categories all relate to artifacts.Monstreexalts appearance over essence: it is “the outward appearance of a thing.” It is unnatural, “most contrary to nature.” Artificed, something produced through technological expertise (“a demonstration”),monstreoften designates a decorative arts object: “… the glassie box that stands on the stalls of Goldsmithes, Cutlers, &,” or a timepiece: “a watch, or...

  12. Chapter Seven Costuming the Christiform Text; Or, L’habit ne fait pas le moine
    (pp. 195-230)

    Guillaume Briçonnet, Marguerite’s confessor, urged her to strip off her gloves, to remove the material obstruction to her metaphysical self-alignment.¹ His statement may have suggested a model for how Marguerite uses objects in theHeptaméron: the literary texture of thenouvellesis always woven from things of the world, but a higher, theological interpretation emerges from the divestiture of earthly garb and accessories. A yearning for a rehabilitated human nature, for the restoration of an Edenic environment uncluttered by earthly dross, energizes the stories of theHeptaméron:

    Vous contenterez que jamais n’en feut veu ung plus beau [pré]. Quant l’assemblée...

  13. Chapter Eight Interior Decoration and External Trappings: Space for the Spirit
    (pp. 231-275)

    Exterior spaces (gardens, forests, bordered alleys, streets), buildings (castles, prisons, churches, monasteries), and interior spaces (bedchambers, salons, closets) play narrative roles in thenouvelles. Their decorative schemes (composed of tapestries, rugs, clothes chests, beds, tables) are also significant. Such objects of furnishing receive different emphases in the text depending on the circumstances of the narrative; they are strategically situated to convey a certain significance.

    [In Ancien Régime France] creating a piece of furniture was not unlike creating a sentence for a native speaker of a language. In both cases the makers of furniture or of speech had a repertoire, which...

  14. Conclusion From Self to Soul: Treasures of the Heart
    (pp. 276-290)

    The eventual eschatological transformation of materiality manifests itself progressively as the earliernouvellesof theHeptaméron, saturated with objects, are replaced in the text by a different sort of object in Books Six and Seven; more explicitly associated with economy, accounting, profit, and commercial transaction, these objects increasingly illustrate the conceits of contemporary commodity culture. However, the stories resolve materiality’s unreliability by progressively moving away from reliance on objects as textual motors, so that by the final Day of theHeptaméron, the material presence is virtually non-existent.

    This shift in emphasis begins as early as the Fourth Day, when the...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 291-332)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 333-344)
  17. Index
    (pp. 345-354)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 355-355)