Pilgrimage and Narrative in the French Renaissance: The Undiscovered Country

Pilgrimage and Narrative in the French Renaissance: The Undiscovered Country

Pilgrimage and Narrative in the French Renaissance: The Undiscovered Country

Pilgrimage and Narrative in the French Renaissance: The Undiscovered Country

Synopsis

This is the first full-length study of the place and meaning of pilgrimage in European Renaissance culture. It makes new material available and also provides fresh perspectives on canonical writers such as Rabelais, Montaigne, Margurite de Navarre, Erasmus, Petrarch, Augustine, and Gregory of Nyssa. Wes Williams undertakes a bold exploration of various interlinking themes in Renaissance pilgrimage: the location, representation, and politics of the sacred, together with the experience of the everyday, the extraordinary, the religious, and the represented. Williams also examines the literary formation of the subjective narrative voice in his texts, and its relationship to the rituals and practices he reviews. This wide-ranging and timely new work aims both to gain a sense of the shapes of pilgrim experience in the Renaissance and to question the ways in which recent theoretical and historical research in the area has determined the differences between fictional worlds and the real.

Excerpt

'The undiscovered country, from whose bourn No traveller returns, puzzles the will, and makes us rather bear those ills we have Than fly to others that we know not of.'

Hamlet, iii. i. 79-82.

Representing Pilgrimage

Hamlet is talking about death. He imagines an 'undiscovered country' in order both to conjure the loss of his father and to resolve in favour of staying put, not leaving, not yet. the metaphor of the journey is thus, for Hamlet, functional; its function is to be self-sufficient as metaphor, enabling him to resist the risks of literalization, and to choose life. Whilst the journey which this study traces is in many ways the antithesis of the unknown--pilgrimage is travel to already discovered country--the movements which pilgrims describe are akin, and often identical, to those enacted by Hamlet's soliloquy.

Many of the writers discussed in this study conceive of pilgrimage as mere metaphor: for them, the idea of leaving is space enough for their purpose, be it devotion or dissent. For others, the metaphor must needs be made literal. They decide to take to the roads, or they are sent by those who have power over them, and so are obliged to make sense of pilgrimage as a journey to a specific place, in real time. Whether they are made to leave, choose to travel, or stay at home, the pilgrims and others whose stories are told in this book find themselves describing the shapes of experience through loss. They understand pilgrimage as a kind of practical philosophy; the project, as Montaigne has it, of 'learning how to die'. in doing so they . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.