Subverting the System: D'Aubigné and Calvinism

Subverting the System: D'Aubigné and Calvinism

Subverting the System: D'Aubigné and Calvinism

Subverting the System: D'Aubigné and Calvinism

Excerpt

Much is said in contemporary scholarship about the value of interdisciplinary research-much is said, but little is done. A special attraction of this study of the French Calvinist author Agrippa d'Aubigné by Catharine Randall Coats is that she has dared to undertake a truly interdisciplinary study, combining her specialty of French Reneissance literature with attention to the way in which Calvinist theology affected the literary endeavors of Calvinist writers, not only her own subject, Agrippa d'Aubigné, but all French Protestant authors of the later sixteenth century. Here she argues that Calvinist theology created special problems of conscience because its emphasis on the authority of Scripture made believers regard their proper task as exposition and presentation of the truth already revealed, while any effort to create an imaginary world of creative fiction seemed a rejection of the truth and a self-glorification of the author that amounted to rebellion against the authority of God. John Calvin himself, with his thorough grounding in the classical tradition of Renaissance humanism, could still engage in literary creation with a relatively free conscience; but the following generation of epigoni , dominated by his successor at Geneva, Theodore de Bèze, felt a deep hostility to the prideful literary creator. In fact, with few exceptions, French Calvinist writers of the later sixteenth century avoided poetic fiction and did in fact confine their efforts to cautious exegesis of revealed truth.

This is the basic assumption of the present book, presented chiefly in an introductory chapter. But according to the present author, Agrippa d'Aubigné represents a clear and conscious rebellion against such constraints; and the balance of the book demonstrates how d'Aubigné through his career more and more openly dared to engage in independent literary creation and to assert his right as a sincerely reformed Christian to do so. Thus theology and literature come together in this study to illuminate a major problem in the literary history of the French Reformed tradition.

Charles G. Nauert, Jr.

General Editor

Sixteenth Century Essays & Studies . . .

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