Less Rightly Said: Scandals and Readers in Sixteenth-Century France

Less Rightly Said: Scandals and Readers in Sixteenth-Century France

Less Rightly Said: Scandals and Readers in Sixteenth-Century France

Less Rightly Said: Scandals and Readers in Sixteenth-Century France

Synopsis

Well-known scholars and poets living in sixteenth-century France, including Erasmus, Ronsard, Calvin, and Rabelais, promoted elite satire that "corrected vices" but "spared the person"- yet this period, torn apart by religious differences, also saw the rise of a much cruder, personal satire that aimed at converting readers to its ideological, religious, and, increasingly, political ideas. By focusing on popular pamphlets along with more canonical works, Less Rightly Said shows that the satirists did not simply renounce the moral ideal of elite, humanist scholarship but rather transmitted and manipulated that scholarship according to their ideological needs. Szabari identifies the emergence of a political genre that provides us with a more thorough understanding of the culture of printing and reading, of the political function of invectives, and of the general role of dissensus in early modern French society.

Excerpt

Verbal violence is offensive, but it can also, when it appears in printed books, appeal to readers. the religious, rhetorical, affective, and political possibilities of reception, appeal, and offense are each negotiated differently in the satires disseminated in sixteenth-century France that I examine in this study. I look at this literature of uncommon humor and violence side by side with humanist works by Erasmus, François Rabelais, Pierre de Ronsard, the authors of the Satyre Menippee, and Pierre de l’Estoile, who provide reflexive accounts of the effect of offensive words on the public and who also intervene in their own manner—to mitigate the effects of verbal violence or precisely to exploit them.

My central concern in this book is to analyze how critical engagement or polemics is made to appeal to readers on a broader scale and thereby also to organize, imagine, and project communities of readers. I analyze the ways in which books appeal to a wider audience along three axes: (1) a generic one concerning the literary techniques used in the corpus of polemical texts and their relation to those humanistic or otherwise elite works that form part of our literary canon, (2) a rhetorical one about the differ-

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