Pastoral Palimpsest: Writing the Laws of Love in L'Astree

By Meding, Twyla | Renaissance Quarterly, Winter 1999 | Go to article overview

Pastoral Palimpsest: Writing the Laws of Love in L'Astree


Meding, Twyla, Renaissance Quarterly


Mediated by Neoplatonist thought of the Quattrocento, paradox governs both form and content of Honore d'Urfe's L'Astree. The prefatory epistles to the work's first three parts establish a Foucaldian notion of "author function" while simultaneously positing the author's profound distrust of writing and his preference for an oral medium. Within the romance itself the three episodes featuring the authoritative Laws of Love, their falsification, and finally their complete revision illustrate deconstruction of the "author function" through the force of the Platonic textual "drift" against which d'Urfe cautions his protagonists in his prefaces. At the same time, the revised Laws of Love announce means of collective composition prevalent in the Later seventeenth century. The romance's sylvan cabinet thus reflects and resolves the dilemmas of authority and composition conceived in the prefaces' paternal Cabinet.

"Rien n'est constant que l'inconstance, durable mesme en son changement". [1] so the narrator of L'Astree ponders the shepherd Celadon's plunge into the river Lignon's waters of oblivion and its illustration of the inherent changeability of all things, particularly the once-constant and mutual love shared by the capricious shepherdess Astree and her faithful suitor. Qualified in terms of amatory conduct, a "paradox of nothing" thus inaugurates this long pastoral romance and displays in its symmetry the antithetical pairing of constancy and inconstancy; [2] whereas inconstancy appropriates the durability associated with constancy and is alone reliable, constancy undergoes ineluctable change, the salient feature of inconstancy, despite its ostensible foundation in stasis. Through rhetorical finesse, the paradox of nothing reduces apparent opposites to equivalence: each takes on the other's characteristics in an interdependent exchange. The conflicting propensities reflect one another through an operation of mut ual cancellation in which the dictum's subject, rien, annuls its constituent parts and proclaims the essential vanity of love. Yet, as mediator of coincidentia oppositorum, the same rien permits the two contrary states to coexist. [3]

Focusing as it does on the delights and torments of love in a multi-generic format, L'Astree is clearly a text permeated with paradox, and the opening aphorism echoes Plato's Sophist and his own paradox of stasis and motion. [4] Closely tied to Renaissance traditions of paradox, the force of sophistic formulations in d'Urfe's romance underlies its predominant theorizations of Neoplatonism, Petrarchism, and courtly love. [5] This is not surprising, given the romance's recognition of the omipotence of the god Love, himself perceived as a sophist by the Quattrocento humanists who influenced d'Urfe's literary interpretation of Neoplatonist doctrine. [6] By its coincidence of opposites, the formulation of the inaugural "paradox of nothing" contradicts another explicit maxim of the pastoral universe: "deux contraires ne peuvent estre en mesme temps en mesme lieu," [7] perhaps d'Urfe's nod to the controversy over "the paradoxical presence of not-being in ... being" that opposed the Florentines Ficino and Pico della Mirandola at the close of the Quattrocento. [8] In the void delineated by the paradox of nothing's subject, nevertheless, the opposing tendencies of constancy and inconstancy do indeed share a common space and time. The contradictory aphorisms are emblematic of the romance's divergent currents of representation: one monolithic and unitary, both founding and perpetuating the pastoral life, free from the influence of corrupt, contemporary society; the other fragmented and polyvalent, partaking of both the perceived debasement of seventeenth-century court society [9] and the savagery of nature in order to effect a continual subversion of the prevailing norms of the first system. In terms of love, the stable order of the first framework corresponds to constancy; the always shifting foundation of the second, to inconstancy. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Pastoral Palimpsest: Writing the Laws of Love in L'Astree
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    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.