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Virgilian Identities in the French Renaissance

Virgilian Identities in the French Renaissance

Phillip John Usher
Isabelle Fernbach
Series: Gallica
Volume: 27
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    Virgilian Identities in the French Renaissance
    Book Description:

    Virgil's works, principally the ‘Bucolics’, the ‘Georgics’, and above all the ‘Aeneid’, were frequently read, translated and rewritten by authors of the French Renaissance. The contributors to this volume show how readers and writers entered into a dialogue with the texts, using them to grapple with such difficult questions as authorial, political and communitarian identities. Rather than simply imitating them, the writers are shown as vibrantly engaging with them, in a "conversation" central to the definition of literature at the time. In addition to discussing how Virgil influenced questions of identity for such authors as Jean Lemaire de Belges, Joachim du Bellay, Clément Marot, Pierre de Ronsard and Jacques Yver, the volume also offers perspectives on Virgil's French translators, on how French writers made quite different appropriations of Homer and Virgil, and on Virgil's reception in the arts. It provides a fresh understanding and assessment of how, in sixteenth-century France, Virgil and his texts moved beyond earlier allegorical interpretations to enter into the ideas espoused by a new and national literature. Phillip John Usher is Assistant Professor of French and Comparative Literature, Barnard College, Columbia University; Isabelle Fernbach is Assistant Professor of French at Montana State University, Bozeman. Contributors: Timothy Hampton, Bernd Renner, Margaret Harp, Michael Randall, Stéphanie Lecompte, Isabelle Fernbach, Valerie Worth-Stylianou, Philip Ford, Phillip John Usher, Corinne Noirot-Maguire, Todd W. Reeser, Katherine Maynard.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-970-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    Timothy Hampton

    In 1546, virtually at the mid-point of the sixteenth century in Europe, François Rabelais published his Tiers Livre, or Third Book, in which he depicts the foolish and willful character Panurge seeking advice as to whether he should marry. After an initial discussion with his friends regarding several fine points of conjugal life and a momentary flirtation with dicing, Panurge, on the advice of the giant Pantagruel, sets out on a series of consultations that will eventually bring him into contact with a whole series of authorities, from philosophers and judges to witches and poets. Yet his first move is...

  5. List of Contributors
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    (pp. xv-xv)
    (pp. xvi-xvi)
  8. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)
    PhilliP John Usher and Isabelle Fernbach

    Virgil’s three main texts – the Eclogues (or Bucolics), the Georgics and the Aeneid – were widely read in Renaissance France. Despite this fact and although many recent studies demonstrate a renewed interest in the ways that Virgil has been read, translated and appropriated in different places and at different periods, to this day no monograph has been dedicated to Virgil’s place in sixteenth-century France.¹ The most complete study to date is an article by Alice Hulubei published in 1931, a thorough account that nevertheless awaits a successor.² The essays of the present study, a partial and far from exhaustive response to...

  9. Part I: Pastoral and Georgic Modes

    • 1 Virgil and Marot: Imitation, Satire and Personal Identity
      (pp. 19-38)
      Bernd Renner

      The Importance of Virgil for Clément Marot is evident from the fact that the first text of his first published collection, the Adolescence Clementine (1532), is a translation of Virgil’s first eclogue – also Virgil’s earliest published work (c. 39–38 BCE). Marot’s obvious intention to draw on the prestige of the Greco-Latin tradition is, of course, in tune with the general aspirations of Renaissance humanists, but the connection is all the more important for a poet at the very beginning of his literary career. Already in this early poem, Marot sought, via his connection to Virgil, to appropriate literary authority...

    • 2 Virgil’s Bucolic Legacy in Jacques Yver’s Le Printemps d’Yver
      (pp. 39-58)
      Margaret Harp

      Jacques Yver’s Le Printemps d’Yver is a work of prose in which three gentlemen and two noblewomen spin tales in an attempt to distract each other from the horrors of the recent third religious war (1568–70) and to rejoice in the brief 1570 Peace of Saint-Germain-en-Laye. Immediately evocative of Marguerite de Navarre’s collection of seventy-two French stories, the Heptameron (1559), itself modeled after, and partly translated from, Boccaccio’s Italian story collection, the Decameron (1350), Le Printemps d’Yver also appropriates and reworks, as will be discussed here, the world of Virgil’s Eclogues. While bearing few of the Eclogues’ formal traits,...

    • 3 On the Magical Statues in Lemaire de Belges’s Le Temple d’honneur et de vertus
      (pp. 59-72)
      Michael Randall

      The Virgilian origins of Jean Lemaire de Belges’s Le Temple d’honneur et de vertus (1503) are obvious. Throughout the poem, shepherds, whose literary configuration is strongly influenced by Virgil’s Eclogues, proclaim the glories of a politically powerful person, the recently deceased Pierre II de Bourbon. However, another less obvious Virgilian connection might also be seen in this poem. Like Joachim Du Bellay’s Chant triumphal sur le voyage de Boulongne (1549), and Pierre de Ronsard’s Le Temple de Messeigneurs le connestable, et des chastillons (1573), Lemaire’s Temple describes an edifice that contains statues and images that that are used to symbolize...

    • 4 Temples of Virtue: Worshipping Virgil in Sixteenth-Century France
      (pp. 73-92)
      Stéphanie Lecompte

      There is no shortage of temples of virtue in sixteenth-century French poetry, and even if their authors never claim Virgil as their source, the dominant quest structure in these works nevertheless presents connections with the great epics of Antiquity, and in particular the Aeneid. It is difficult to determine the exact origin of this topos, of which Jean Lemaire de Belges’ Le Temple d’Honneur et de Vertu seems to be one of the first French examples, but two ancient works emerge as rather obvious sources. In Works and Days, Hesiod describes the arduous and barren path that one must follow...

    • 5 From Copy to Copia: Imitation and Authorship in Joachim Du Bellay’s Divers Jeux Rustiques (1558)
      (pp. 93-114)
      Isabelle Fernbach

      Joachim Du Bellay published his Divers Jeux rustiques upon his return to France, after a period of four years in Rome spent in the service of his uncle, Cardinal Jean du Bellay. The collection’s eclecticism – it ranges from rustic poems to love poetry and satire – illustrates the various aspects of the author’s poetry and has prompted comparison with Pierre de Ronsard’s Bocage (1554) and Meslanges (1555).¹ Together with the Regrets and the Antiquitez de Rome, also published in 1558, the Divers Jeux rustiques signalled Du Bellay’s “rentrée littéraire” (return to literature), which carried with it hopes for a royal appointment...

  10. Part II: The Epic Mode

    • 6 Virgilian Space in Renaissance French Translations of the Aeneid
      (pp. 117-140)
      Valerie Worth-Stylianou

      Recent critics of the Aeneid in compendia such as The Cambridge Companion to Virgil still debate the exact nature of Virgil’s epic and the political sentiments its author sought to impart. For example, that volume’s editor, Martindale, focuses in his introduction on the unresolved debate over whether the poem is firmly pro-Augustan or a subtle critique of empire and emperor;¹ Hardie proposes a reading emphasising the tragedy which runs through the work,² while in contrast Barchiesi demonstrates the importance of a device such as ecphrasis in contextualising heroic elements.³ Other contributors remind us of the range of reactions provoked by...

    • 7 Virgil Versus Homer: Reception, Imitation, Identity in the French Renaissance
      (pp. 141-160)
      Philip Ford

      Of all the poets of the ancient world, Virgil is clearly the one who survived most successfully throughout the Middle Ages, despite the competition of perhaps his closest rival, Ovid. Manuscripts of Virgil were frequent in medieval libraries,¹ and his status as a messianic prophet, founded on the fourth Eclogue, clearly did much to enhance his reputation.² Moreover, his compositions in a range of poetic genres made him an ideal model for later poets, while the propagandistic elements in his works provided material which could be exploited for patriotic purposes later on by Renaissance writers who were developing a sense...

    • 8 The Aeneid in the 1530s: Reading with the Limoges Enamels
      (pp. 161-188)
      Phillip John Usher

      In the early 1530s an unknown artist in Limoges,² working in a style similar to that of Jean Pénicaud, produced a series of at least eighty-two enamels illustrating episodes from the Aeneid, a beautiful set of images whose value is also the insight they provide into what the Aeneid meant to contemporary French readers.³ The enamels illustrate scenes drawn from all books except the last three (10–12), suggesting that production was interrupted for a reason so far lost to history.⁴ The series is unique for the period in its extensive and methodical reproduction of episodes from a single work...

    • 9 At the Helm, Second in Command: Du Bellay and La Mort de Palinure
      (pp. 189-212)
      Corinne Noirot-Maguire

      A mere three years after he eschewed vernacular translation, situating the practice within the infancy of his project to establish the supremacy of French letters,¹ Joachim Du Bellay published his verse translation of the story of Dido and Aeneas, complemented by two related pieces from Ovid and Ausonius.² Soon thereafter, he inserted La Mort de Palinure into the second edition of his overtly Gallican Recueil de Poësie (1553) dedicated to Marguerite de France. This Virgilian episode recounts the epic and tragic loss of Aeneas’ helmsman Palinurus, deadened by Slumber and thrown overboard on behalf of Neptune, who had agreed to...

    • 10 Du Bellay’s Dido and the Translation of Nation
      (pp. 213-236)
      Todd W. Reeser

      In the preface to his 1552 collection of translations from Virgil, Ovid and Ausonius, Joachim Du Bellay describes his translation project in terms that cannot but evoke his Deffence, et illustration de la langue françoyse published just three years earlier: “je veux bien encor’ donner à nostre langue quelques miens ouvrages, qui seront … les derniers fruicts de nostre jardin” (I should still like to offer up to our language some of my works which will be … the latest fruits from our garden).¹ In order to meet with “plus grande faveur” (greater favour) he will start “non par œuvres...

    • 11 “Avec la terre on possède la guerre”: The Problem of Place in Ronsard’s Franciade
      (pp. 237-256)
      Katherine Maynard

      Early in Pierre de Ronsard’s epic poem, the Franciade, Mercury is sent on behalf of Jupiter to deliver a message to Helenin, the uncle of the poem’s protagonist, Francus. Francus, who is the son of Hector and Andromache, has been loitering in Buthrotum instead of pursuing the great destiny in store for him. According to Mercury, the achievements of Hector’s descendants culminate with Ronsard’s patron King charles IX who holds the world in his hand:

      L’enfant d’Hector, à qui les cieux amis

      Ont tant d’honneur et de sceptres promis:

      Qui doit hausser la race Priamide,

      Doit abaisser la grandeur Aezonide,...

  11. INDEX
    (pp. 257-260)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 261-263)