Gender, Rhetoric, and Print Culture in French Renaissance Writing

Gender, Rhetoric, and Print Culture in French Renaissance Writing

Gender, Rhetoric, and Print Culture in French Renaissance Writing

Gender, Rhetoric, and Print Culture in French Renaissance Writing

Synopsis

Floyd Gray explores how the treatment of controversial subjects in French Renaissance writing was affected by rhetorical conventions and the commercial requirements of an expanding publishing industry. Focusing on a wide range of discourses on gender issues--misogynist, feminist, autobiographical, homosexual and medical--Gray reveals the extent to which these marginalized texts reflect literary concerns rather than social reality. His new readings of Rabelais, Montaigne, Louise Lab¿ and others, challenge the inherent anachronism of criticism that fails to take account of the cultural context of the period.

Excerpt

One of the principal themes running through this study is that of the implications of the use of rhetorical strategies in the articulation of marginal discourses. The question variously raised is to what extent and in what ways the peculiar expression of the place and presence of women, sexual difference, auctorial identity, is a reflection of literary rather than social reality. Another, corollary theme is that of the contribution of print and printers to the shape of vernacular writing and the subjects it privileges.

The gradual acceptance of French as a language of literature and science is mirrored in the printing of French, regularly by the middle of the sixteenth century, in the roman and italic formerly reserved for Latin texts. Printing and the printing trade redefined in profound ways the context of editor—author and author—reader interaction, encouraging the introduction and exploitation of commercially motivated materials and techniques, while compounding the problem of how and what to read. Given the formal rhetorical training Renaissance writers and readers alike received, and the fact that rhetoric is essentially the means by which writers contrive to rival with and reorganize reality, it is hardly surprising that topical and linguistic play is one of the factors at work in the literature of the day, or that the reading public was adequately prepared to anticipate and appreciate both its performative and its provisional qualities.

From an analysis of the rhetorical factor in the Querelle des femmes, this study moves to a consideration of the ways in which writing, viewed as a textual phenomenon, inscribes its own, sometimes ambiguous, meaning. Centered on women writing and writing about women, this is essentially a work on interrelated themes and topics. It does not pretend to afford a history of gender or of print culture in the Renaissance. Rather, it is intended primarily to provide an understanding of the manner in which texts were conceived and . . .

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