Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Des Rats et Des Ratieres: Anamorphoses D'un Champ Metaphorique De Saint Augustin a Jean Racine

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Des Rats et Des Ratieres: Anamorphoses D'un Champ Metaphorique De Saint Augustin a Jean Racine

Article excerpt

Jacques Berchtold, Des Rats et des ratiires: anamorphoses d'un champ metaphorique de Saint j4xggustin a Jean Racine (Geneva: Droz, 1992). 274 pp.; 40 plates. Sw. Fr. 75.00.

While Modern English speakers and readers of Orwell's 1984 will be surprised to see no distinction made in this study between rats and mice, Berchtold assures us that the Latin term rus covered both species and that medieval rats were smaller than Orwell's. This said, the author ranges widely, from Horace's 'ridiculus mus', to St Augustine's 'muscipula' (mousetrap) and to Hamlet's 'Mousetrap', while not missing the opportunity to pun, in typically medieval fashion, on the names of Ra-cine, Ra-belais, and Marot (an anagram of 'om rat'). Although some of the deconstruction and `jeux de mots' are little more than scholarly entertainments (so what if rats are related to art anagrammatically?), this book is an extremely erudite and fertile interdisciplinary exploration of the term 'rat' and its symbolic and metaphorical associations from the Middle Ages to the seventeenth century. Berchtold's evidence is taken from theology, iconography, literature, and popular folklore, and as he pursues rats and mousetraps throughout this material he illustrates the medieval writer's predilection for analogy, metaphor, and homophonic etymologies. He begins with the poet's uneasy relationship with `les rats bibliophages' - mice eat books and are thus symbolic of the transience of the written word. In the commentaries on the Psalms by St Augustine of Hippo, the mxscipula is the trap set by the devil awaiting any bird amongst the faithful who, out of pride, tries to fly too high and falls. Flying too high represents those who attempt to pin down and consequently interpret erroneously divine mysteries (another pun on mus). …

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.