Divine and Poetic Freedom in the Renaissance

Divine and Poetic Freedom in the Renaissance: Nominalist Theology and Literature in France and Italy

Ullrich Langer
Copyright Date: 1990
Pages: 226
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7zvzc5
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    Divine and Poetic Freedom in the Renaissance
    Book Description:

    The closely related problems of creativity and freedom have long been seen as emblematic of the Renaissance. Ullrich Langer, however, argues that French and Italian Renaissance literature can be profitably reconceived in terms of the way these problems are treated in late medieval scholasticism in general and nominalist theology in particular. Looking at a subject that is relatively unexplored by literary critics, Langer introduces the reader to some basic features of nominalist theology and uses these to focus on what we find to be "modern" in French and Italian literature of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

    Langer demonstrates that this literature, often in its most interesting moments, represents freedom from constraint in the figures of the poet and the reader and in the fictional world itself. In Langer's view, nominalist theology provides a set of concepts that helps us understand the intellectual context of that freedom: God, the secular sovereign, and the poet are similarly absolved of external necessity in their relationships to their worlds.

    Originally published in 1990.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6139-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 3-24)

    Man is conceived as possibility without limits, as opening without confines.” Thus Eugenio Garin characterizes the new sense of man’s value and power in the Italian Renaissance.¹ If Garin’s words are most appropriately used to illuminate Florentine thought of the late fifteenth century, the idea of limits and its complement, freedom from limits, are immensely productive in understanding some basic impulses of the French and Italian Renaissance in general. My study is a meditation on constraint, and on “absoluteness,” in the sense of “being absolved of,” or “being prior to,” in French and Italian literature of the sixteenth century. This...

  5. ONE THE FREE READER: HYPOTHETICAL NECESSITY IN FICTION
    (pp. 25-50)

    The figure of the poet and the role of the reader in Renaissance fiction have been the focus of critical attention: Robert Durling’s classic analysis of the poet in epic and Terence Cave’s recent essay on the reader and reading are two emblematic cases.¹ Elizabeth L. Eisenstein, in her recentsummaon the cultural effect of printing, rightly characterizes the reading public as “more atomistic and individualistic than a hearing one.”² The poet and the reader are roughly the two poles of the communicative situation, and the emergence of strong poet and reader figures is a sign of the increased...

  6. TWO FREE REWARD: MERIT IN COURTLY LITERATURE
    (pp. 51-83)

    Castiglione’sLibro del cortegiano(1528) and Renaissance courtesy literature in general chart an uneven course between the description of an illustrious courtly ideal never fully incarnate and the establishment of a set of rules enabling courtly practice and prescription. These two intentions, one roughly Platonic and the other roughly Aristotelian, are in the end contradictory, for the more substantial the ideal becomes, the less it can accommodate varying experience and therefore practice. The impulse to set forth an ideal as something outside of life’s diversity through which experience is to be judged is incompatible with the production of that ideal...

  7. THREE THE FREE CREATOR: CAUSALITY AND BEGINNINGS
    (pp. 84-125)

    The form of a book’s beginning is the form of a writer’s authority.² This beginning may be either the literal beginning, the exordium to the actual work, or a reflection in any part of the book on the conditions preceding it and to which it displays its connections. What the book says or implies about its provenance, its dependence, about whatever has preceded it and without which it would not have come into existence: that is the form of its connection to the surrounding culture and world. It is also the form of the power that writing intends; this is...

  8. FOUR FREE CHOICE IN FICTION: WILL AND ITS OBJECTS IN RABELAIS
    (pp. 126-148)

    The final chapters of Rabelais’sGargantua(1534?) are devoted to the utopian antimonastery, the abbey of Thélème, whose device “Faictz ce que vouldras” apparently summarizes the freewheeling spirit of at least the first two Rabelaisian novels. Indeed the inhabitants of Thélème tend to do what they will, in a somewhat uniform way, as they are all well-born, educated, and naturally inclined to do good. Much ink concerning this episode has been spilled, and some attention has focused on the connection between the device and the name of the abbey.Thélèmeundoubtedly stands for the Greek θέλημα, “will”; this noun is...

  9. FIVE THE FREE POET: SOVEREIGNTY AND THE SATIRIST
    (pp. 149-190)

    Joachim du bellay begins his satiric and nostalgic sonnet collectionLes regrets et autres oeuvres poëtiques(1558) with a gesture of refusal, reiterated anaphorically throughout the sonnet and accentuated by the reinforced negationpoint:

    Je ne veulx point fouiller au seing de la nature,

    Je ne veulx point chercher l’esprit de l’univers,

    Je ne veulx point sonder les abysmes couvers,

    Ny desseigner du ciel la belle architecture.²

    [I do not want to dig in nature’s breast; I do not want to search for the spirit of the universe; I do not want to investigate covered depths; Nor do I want...

  10. EPILOGUE: WILL AND PERSPECTIVE
    (pp. 191-194)

    In discussing the Renaissance conceptualization of will and freedom in the preceding chapters I have had frequent recourse to the example of Rabelais’s abbey of Thélème. In itself the episode borders on the uninteresting. It is the most static and least funny set of chapters in his novels. It is dominated by extensive description of objects: of the building, of the grounds, of the clothes that the happy few choose to wear. The “freedom” of Thélème is, however, a precise analogue of the structure of will and sovereignty that I described in the previous chapters. The exhortation “Faictz ce que...

  11. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 195-210)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 211-215)