Critical Tales: New Studies of the Heptameron and Early Modern Culture

Critical Tales: New Studies of the Heptameron and Early Modern Culture

Critical Tales: New Studies of the Heptameron and Early Modern Culture

Critical Tales: New Studies of the Heptameron and Early Modern Culture

Synopsis

"Appearing in print for the first time in 1558, the book that we now know as the Heptameron is the work of Marguerite, Queen of Navarre. Left incomplete, but clearly modeled on Boccaccio's Decameron, the Heptameron consists of a frame narrative and seventy-two tales told by five men and five women characters in the shady meadow at Notre Dame de Sarrance. As John D. Lyons and Mary B. McKinley contend in their introduction to this volume, the tales of the Heptameron portray the conflicts, ruptures, and upheavals that agitated early modern French society. They present a forum in which different elements of Renaissance and Reformation culture meet and, at times, collide. Contradictory suppositions about men and women are easily discerned behind almost all of the stories, and the discussions among the fictional storytellers represent attitudes both feminist and misogynist, masculinist and misandrous. Less oppositional are the religious conflicts among the storytellers; some are less ardently religious while others are concerned with the corporeal rather than the spiritual. The stories of the Heptameron are often cautionary tales about the corruption of the late medieval church, about decadent priests and monks, or about the unfortunate faithful whose belief in the efficacy of good works for salvation leads to disaster and death. The conflicts of the Reformation loom over the Heptameron not just as the origin of its ideological tensions, but also as a prominent symptom of the larger, related disruptions that marked sixteenth-century Europe. Provocative and wide-ranging, appealing to specialists in numerous fields, Critical Tales is the first collective volume of studies in English on the Heptameron. The authors - Robert D. Cottrell, Hope Glidden, Marcel Tetel, Donald Stone, Tone Conley, Michel Jeanneret, Cathleen M. Bauschatz, Francois Cornilliat and Ullrich Langer, Mary B. McKinley, Philippe de Lajarte, Andre Tournon, Daniel Russell, Francois Rigolot, Paula Sommers, and Edwin M. Duval - present different approaches to Marguerite de Navarre's tales, dealing with such topics as confession, rape, the impact of printing on knowledge and narrative, narrative theory, and androgyny. The contributors to Critical Tales, like the storytellers of the Heptameron, are not afraid to challenge the critical establishment and one another. The book will be of interest to students and scholars of French and comparative literature and women's studies." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

Appearing in print for the first time in 1558, the book that we now know as the Heptameron represents in microcosm the conflicts, tensions, and beliefs of early modern French society as viewed from one part of the court. The "tales of the queen of Navarre," as Brantôme called the work, present a forum where different elements of Renaissance and Reformation culture meet and, at times, collide. Often the encounters are ideological. The stories and discussions of the Heptameron depict confrontations based on, among other elements, gender. Contradictory suppositions about women emerge repeatedly from the stories and discussions as the devisants or fictional storytellers -- five men and five women -- delineate attitudes both feminist and misogynist. At the same time, similarly conflicting notions about men emerge to be debated. Whether echoing the late medieval querelle des femmes, the contemporary querelle des amyes, the evolving currents of Neoplatonism and Petrarchism, or the attitudes toward sexual roles put forth in Reformation polemics, deeply felt beliefs about gender inform and animate the Heptameron.

Ideological confrontations in the Heptameronoften echo evangelical efforts at church reform. Here, conflicts among the storytellers are less oppositional, for even if some seem more fervent in their religious ardor than others and some more concerned with the corporal than with the spiritual, none of them advocates a theological position opposed to that of the evangelical reformers. The stories the devisants tell are often cautionary tales conveying their hostility and dismay about the state of the Catholic church: decadent priests and monks, most often lubricious and venal; unfortunate Christians whose belief in the efficacy of good works leads to disaster and death. Both the stories and the discussions often center on differing attitudes toward sin and virtue, alienation and reconciliation, eros and caritas, pleasure and honor -- alternatives that the storytellers and their characters present as conflictual states and values within which they must negotiate a tenable place in their fictional world. If some have found a haven of tranquillity in the steadfast convictions of their evangelical faith, others are still playing out restless scenarios of unsatisfied desire. The . . .

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