L'Imaginaire de la Peste dans la Littérature Française de la Renaissance
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CitationHobart, Brenton K. 2012. L'Imaginaire de la Peste dans la Littérature Française de la Renaissance. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
AbstractThis thesis explores the theme of the plague in sixteenth-century French literature, beginning with works from Antiquity and the Middle Ages in 16th-century French translation: Claude de Seyssel’s LHistoire de Thucydide Athenien and LHistoire Ecclesiastique; Pierre Robert Olivétan’s Bible; Antoine Le Maçon’s Le Decameron de Messire Jehan Bocace; and Richard Le Blanc’s Georgiques de Virgile. While the plague narratives in these works present a large portion of the corpus of the disease that would later provide models of both structure and imagery for writers of new works throughout the French Renaissance, they can above all be read independently as works of French literature. They not only reflect the diseases known then as plague, but also the sentiments of a period troubled with the Wars of Religion, foreshadowing events that were to unfold as the century progressed. The second part of the thesis explores the theme of the plague at once as a lived and an inherited experience in the works of Clément Marot, Michel de Nostredame / Nostradamus, Pierre Boaistuau, Ambroise Paré and Michel de Montaigne. While reusing clichés from the established plague corpus in their own works, these authors also add new clichés, whether experienced or created, to this corpus. The reader can therefore identify continuity over the course of the chapters, while the new context and function of these clichés demonstrate originality within each chapter. Chronological close readings are essential to gain an understanding of the unique literary qualities of these texts and how the theme of the plague evolves over the course of the 16th century. I concentrate on literary devices such as mimesis (the representation of the plague through experience and works of precedence), ekphrasis (the vivid imagery of plague narratives) and self-portraiture (the creation of literary doubles within the framework of plague narratives), while also taking into account how epidemics have been momentous in the lives of several of these authors. Although built upon many different historical diseases, the plague becomes a codified, highly recognizable literary genre by the close of the French
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