Menander to Marivaux: The History of a Comic Structure

Menander to Marivaux: The History of a Comic Structure

Menander to Marivaux: The History of a Comic Structure

Menander to Marivaux: The History of a Comic Structure

Synopsis

The author examines comedies based on a structure first used by Menander in the fourth century B. C. and brought to its precise formulations and brilliance by Marivaux in the eighteenth century A. D.

Excerpt

This book, like my previous one on Marivaux, has been a long time in the making. the principal reason is that for twenty-one years I was an administrator as well as a teacher and had to steal time for research. One consequence of this fact is that a number of people have already heard something about what I call F, at different stages of the investigation: audiences at the University of British Columbia and the University of Waterloo, my own students and a few colleagues at the University of Alberta, and those who attended the Marivaux day which was a part of the 1972 annual meetings of the Association Internationale des Etudes Francaises. Some possible readers of this book who have been attracted by the word "structure" in the sub-title must be warned. If they are looking for a new variety of critical science set forth in an elaborate jargon, they will be disappointed. I was strongly influenced early in my career, by two passages from Fontenelle whom I still regard as one of my masters. Another is T.S. Eliot, the subject of my doctoral dissertation, who managed to make quite an impact as a critic without inventing a new language. the two passages from Fontenelle go as follows:

On s'aperçoit même que ce n'est qu'à regret qu"il entre dans les questions générales d'où l'on ne rapporte que des mots qui n'ont d'autre mérite que d'avoir passé longtemps pour des choses (Eloge de M. du Hamel).

Lemery fut le premier qui dissipa les ténèbres naturelles ou affectées de la chimie, qui la réduisit à des idées plus nettes et plus simples, qui abolit la barbarie inutile de son langage, qui ne promit de sa part que ce qu'elle pouvait, et ce qu'il la connaissait capable d'exécuter; de là vint le grand succès. Il n'y a pas seulement de la droiture d'esprit, il y a une sorte de grandeur d'âme à dépouiller ainsi d'une fausse dignité la science qu'on professe (Eloge de M. Lemery).

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