Barthelemy Aneau, regent de la Renaissance lyonnaise.
Brigitte Biot has produced a scrupulously researched and extremely informative account of the life and works of the French Renaissance humanist Barthelemy Arteau, who is generally known, if at all, as the author of the Quintil Horatian, a scathing critique of Joachim Du Bellay's Deffence et illustration de la langue Francoise. Biot's main objective is to rescue Aneau from oblivion and disdain while contributing to the expansion of the literary canon, too long restricted to a few preeminent authors. The work begins with a survey of Aneau's reputation among literary historians and religious polemicists from the Renaissance to the present, and the key moment in this evolution seems to have been Aneau's violent death at the hands of a Catholic mob in 1561. This event confirmed his posthumous reputation as a heretic, which Biot wisely reevaluates in the light of Aneau's interest in syncretism and hermeticism. The remainder of the work is divided into three parts. The first part is a biographical account of Aneau's humanistic formation and pedagogical career, which allows the author to sketch a lively portrait of Lyons in the mid-sixteenth century when printers, publishers, and poets invigorated the intellectual life of France's second city. As the principal of the College de la Trinite, Aneau upheld the humanist ideal of a liberal education based on eloquence while encouraging instruction in the vernacular and promoting the study of Greek.
The second part analyzes Aneau's literary production in the genres of drama, poetry, and translation as well as his polemic with Du Bellay. The intention of this analysis is to correct the image of Aneau as literary reactionary promulgated by such eminent scholars as V.L. Saulnier and Albert-Marie Schmidt, and the main obstacle to such rehabilitation is the Quintil Horatian, which seems to stand in defense of tradition against Pleiade novelty. To dispel this misconception, Biot shows how Aneau adopts Philipp Melanchthon's philology and Clement Marot's esthetic, neither of which was obsolete or regressive in 1550, in order to challenge three main aspects ofDu Bellay's manifesto: its diffuse form; its attempt at defense and illustration, which, according to Aneau's most famous phrase, could more aptly be regarded as offense and denigration; and its overbearing indictment of French literary history. In this way, Biot offers a useful and perceptive summary of the debate over Du Bellay's Defence without adding anything fundamentally new to the understanding of French Renaissance poetics already established by the work of Henri Chamard, Grahame Castor, Kees Meerhoffand others.
The next chapter (II, 3) provides a good discussion of the function and theory of translation in the Renaissance as well as a conscientious examination of Aneau's technique as translator of Josephus, Cicero, Ovid, and Andrea Alciato. In fact, Aneau's translation of Alciato's Emblems and his composition of original emblem books in Latin and French inspire Biot's most interesting commentary as she situates her author in the Renaissance inquiry into symbolic imagery and in the quest for a perfect language that Claude-Gilbert Dubois has captured so well in his Mythe et langage au seizieme siecle.
Part 3 covers Aneau's later writings, including occasional poetry, a legal treatise, and arguably his most significant achievement, the esoteric utopian novel Alector. The chapter on Alector discusses narrative technique and intertextual allusions before delving into the very provocative ideological context of a work which reveals its author's surreptitious adherence to religious syncretism and constitutional monarchy. Biot's treatment of this "rich, complex, fascinating text"(437) encourages a warm reception for the new edition of the novel prepared by Marie-Madeleine Fontaine for Editions Droz. A complete index and thorough bibliography accompany this useful reference work, which offers a clear and just appraisal of a minor literary figure whose career nevertheless intersected with nearly all the major intellectual and esthetic currents of the Renaissance.
ERIC MACPHAIL Indiana University, Bloomington
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|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Sep 22, 1998|
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