Critical prefaces of the French Renaissance

By Bernard Weinberg | Go to book overview

FOREWORD

The purpose of the present volume is to provide a collection of representative critical prefaces of the French Renaissance in an accurate and readable text. This collection is intended not chiefly for the specialist in Middle French, but rather for those concerned with the critical ideas of the sixteenth century. Both the nature of the Introduction and the selection and presentation of the representative texts have been determined by this aim.

The Introduction. In the Introduction, five major texts of the sixteenth century in France are analyzed in considerable detail: Sebillet's Art poétique françoys ( 1548), Du Bellay's Deffence et Illustration de la langue françoyse ( 1549), Jacques Peletier du Mans's Art poétique ( 1555), Pierre Delaudun's Art poétique ( 1597), and Vauquelin de la Fresnaye's Art poétique français ( 1605). None of these texts is included in the collection. They have been studied in the Introduction for two main purposes: first, to supplement the texts published here in order to give the reader a more adequate conception of the total critical production of the century; and second, to emphasize through the analysis the principal critical problems and topics of the century, in the light of which the prefaces themselves may be better understood. Other critical documents (such as Fabri's Art de pleine rhétorique) have not been discussed; once again, the Introduction is selective rather than all-inclusive, and is not meant to be a history of critical theory in the Renaissance.

The Prefaces. The prefaces printed here were published between 1525 and 1611, and are arranged chronologically in order of their publication.1 They have been selected as representative expressions of the ideas current with respect to the various genres practiced in the century: tragedy, comedy, epic, lyric, satire, romance of chivalry, history, short story, translation, and with respect to the nature of the poetic art in general. Some of them are well known and have been reprinted since the sixteenth century; others are less famous and have never been reprinted. It should be emphasized that this is a choice of prefaces, not a complete collection. The choice was influenced in part at least by considerations of availability of materials, since the project was undertaken and completed during the wartime years when complete access to European materials was not possible. Two of the texts are not prefaces, Estienne Dolet's La Manière de bien traduire ( 1540) and Ronsard's Abrégé de l'art poétique ( 1565); the first is included because it contains ideas on a Renaissance genre not otherwise separately treated in the prefaces, the second because it rounds out

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1
In a few cases, rearrangements have been made of texts within a given year, in order to bring together texts which were closely related in idea.

-vii-

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