Francoise Argod-Dutard. L'Ecriture de Joachim Du Bellay: Le discours poetique dans Les Regrets. L'orthographe et la syntaxe clans les lettres de l'auteur.
Francoise Argod-Dutard, using linguistics and adapting its tools, has examined the poetic discourse in Les Regrets, as well as the orthography and syntax in the letters written by Joachim Du Bellay during the first half of the sixteenth century. This is a study of considerable linguistic scholarship which will be useful to scholars with an interest in the history of the French language and the development of printing during the first half of the sixteenth century. However, the book does have a serious drawback in its overlaborious examination of grammatical points, and readers from outside the field of linguistics will find the volume slow going.
The introduction summarizes diverse critical opinions offered by scholars regarding the structure of Les Regrets, and demonstrates the extent to which Du Bellay's work has been studied in the past years. Noting the absence of recent studies that deal with the polysemantic aspects of the poetic collection, and the fact that both the title and the composition of Les Regrets have been subject to several interpretations, Argod-Dutard forms the project to use grammar to unlock the meaning of this enigmatic work. While it was her primary goal to study the language of Du Bellay in Les Regrets, in order to bring to light some of his creative procedures, her secondary goal was to analyze his letters to be better able to situate the language of the poet before examining the poetry. Therefore, the encyclopedic heart of her study focuses on a consideration of the grammatical aspects of those writings.
The book is divided into two main parts. The first section, entitled L'Echange Epistolaire (chaps. 1-5), analyzes Du Bellay's letters in detail and situates them within the context of the evolving systems of sixteenth-century transcription. Chapter 1 concentrates first on prevailing orthographic practices during the first half of the sixteenth century and secondarily on the numerous reforms proposed and adopted by printers who wished to establish coherent and stable graphic conventions. The second part of the chapter discusses the framework of Du Bellay's letters. Here, Argod-Dutard considers the types of letters written by the poet (short missives, administrative letters, letters of friendship, and letters of justification), their presentation, and orthographic characteristics. Chapter 2 examines the fabric of Du Bellay's writing dealing with the morpho-syntactical aspects of the personal pronouns, the possessives, and the spatio-temporal aspects (including an overview of the tenses). These broad analyses offer a wealth of opinion on issues pertaining to the extent of modernity of Du Bellay's language, its roles, identities, and variations. The final three chapters of the first section document the use of articles, demonstratives, and the modal attributes. These chapters include a study of the themes of the four major types of letters. At the close of the first section, Argod-Dutard argues that Du Bellay, by his orthography, is undeniably conservative, clinging to traditions of the period rather than adopting innovations.
The second part of the study, entitled Le Discours Poetique dans "Les Regrets" de J. Du Bellay (chaps. 6-11), is reserved for a study of the poetic discourse. Chapter 6 focuses on l'Enonciation lyrique, the morpho-syntax of personal pronouns, and the lyric Je. Chapter 7 is primarily a study of the verbal system and the tenses used by the poet and deals with the narrative threads of the poet's stay in Rome and return to France. In the balance of the chapters we find renewed discussions of the Je poetique, the modal aspects of lyric expression, its phraseology, and a final chapter linking individual poems to the collection as a whole.
Argod-Dutard's inquiry into the poetry of Les Regrets and letters of Du Bellay leads her to several general conclusions that reconfigure understanding of the modernity of Du Bellay's writing. She demonstrates that while some of Du Bellay's usages fit right into what sixteenth-century specialists describe as more ancient practices (the articles are omitted more frequently than in modern French), a good number are surprisingly modern (tenses are used with actual value and behave much as those used today, and negation presents obvious signs of an advanced evolution). After a lengthy and detailed study of the poetic collection she contends that Du Bellay is perhaps more modern in his syntax than in his orthography.
This rigorous linguistic study is concluded by noteworthy annexes which contain reproductions of the letters of the poet, transcriptions of each letter, and extensive notes. There is also a very useful genealogy of the Du Bellay family, several interesting maps of sixteenth-century France, an extensive bibliography, and a useful index. In all, Argod-Dutard's study makes a valuable contribution to the scholarship of Du Bellay's Les Regrets and the sixteenth-century epistolary tradition.
KAREN R. SORSBY
California State University
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|Author:||Sorsby, Karen R.|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Dec 22, 2003|
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