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An Interregnum of the Sign: The Emblematic Age in France. Essays in Honour of Daniel S. Russell.

David Graham, ed. An Interregnum of the Sign: The Emblematic Age in France. Essays in Honour of Daniel S. Russell.

(Glasgow Emblem Studies, 6.) Glasgow: Glasgow Emblem Studies, 2001. xx + 252 pp. illus. $18. ISBN: 0-85261-748-8.

David Graham has edited an excellent volume pertaining to French emblematic topics. This collection of eleven essays celebrates the scholarly work of Daniel Russell, whose first publication in emblematics appeared in 1972, "DuBellay's Emblematic Vision of Rome" (Yale French Studies 47:98-109). Four of the essays are in French with the others in English. The volume is the sixth to be issued by Glasgow Emblem Studies, an important new series edited by Alison Adams, assisted by Laurence Grove.

Graham's eight-page introduction provides background on Russell's development from a specialist in French Renaissance literature to a distinguished international authority on French emblematics. In 1968 New York University encouraged Russell's rather adventurous (for the time) dissertation, A Survey of French Emblem Literature, and Russell has continued to explore various approaches to French emblem studies for more than three decades. His two books on the subject are required reading for anyone studying Renaissance emblems: The Emblem and Device in France (Lexington: French Forum Monographs, 1985) and Emblematic Structures in Renaissance French Culture (Toronto and Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 1995).

Each of the essays in the present volume developed from aspects of Russell's own work and together they demonstrate the astonishing depth and diversity of his scholarship. The volume begins with an essay by Gisele Mathieu-Castellani on Maurice Sceve's Delie, in which she concludes that the poet's message for his beloved is poised within paradoxes and contradictions, much like love itself, and expressed through a tantalizing dialogue of text and image.

Both Alison Adams and Laurence Grove have essays in the book, with Grove's participation being especially appropriate since Russell directed his 1995 doctoral dissertation, one of seven dissertations supervised by him. Grove writes about moveable woodcuts in his comparison of printed and manuscript illustrations during the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, one of the four contributors in Interregnum of the Sign concerned with applied emblematics (in visual media). The other three are: Michael Giordano, who discusses the anatomical blason in a provocative text that relates the fragmentation of the body to mannerist art; Judi Loach, whose essay convincingly explains how the decorative scheme of Claude Menestrier transformed the courtyard of his Jesuit alma mater in Lyon, the College de la Trinite, into a temple of wisdom; and Paulette Chone, who reveals new information about the emblematic illustrator Pierre Woeiriot.

Four essays deal directly with French emblem books. Alison Adams analyzes one of Georgette de Montenay's emblems in the polyglot edition of 1619, illustrating how "the web of biblical allusion" is taken for granted in understanding the text in any language and remarking that today's students may no longer be linked with that particular web. Stephen Rawles studies the minutiae of cracked woodcuts to determine priority of issue in Wechel's editions of Alciato, painstaking but necessary research when establishing the history of the text. David Graham's essay on religious and political content argues, in fact, against emblematic topicality while discussing several interesting chrononyms and toponyms. Alison Saunders compares the virtually simultaneous publication in Latin and French of Pierre Coustau's Pegina in 1555 to discover that the French translator decidedly simplified the text for the vernacular market.

French spirituality in the seventeenth century is discussed in emblematic contexts by both Anne-Elisabeth Spica and Agne's Guiderdoni Brusle. Spica studies several texts, including Chesneau's Orpheus Eucharisticus, emphasizing the importance of visual imagery in devotional practices and suggesting a new French stylistics of devotional emblematics. Brusle's essay on Richeome's Catechisme royal explains how the tension of text and image resulted in a more intuitive, and thus more affective, spiritual state of mind.

Interregnum of the Sign is thus not only a fitting gift of homage for a generous, supportive scholar, but also a significant source of information and ideas about the relationship of French emblematics to Renaissance art, literature, and religion.
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Author:Sider, Sandra
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 22, 2003
Words:671
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