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Histoire et litterature au siecle de Montaigne: Melanges offerts a Claude-Gilbert Dubois. .

Francoise Argod-Dutard, ed. Histoire et litterature au siecle de Montaigne: Melanges offerts a Claude-Gilbert Dubois.

(Cahiers d'Humanisme et Renaissance, 60.) Geneva: Librairie Droz, S. A., 2002. 409 pp. n.p. ISBN: 2-600-00643-5.

This new festschrift honors the distinguished seiziemiste Claude-Gilbert Dubois, professor emeritus of French literature at the University of Bordeaux and author of numerous studies on the French Renaissance and the European Baroque. Dubois is perhaps best known for his massive thesis on the theory of history in the French Renaissance as well as for his foundation and direction of an interdisciplinary research center on the literary imagination which has for the last twenty years hosted many international conferences and published many important collections of essays. This volume in his honor contains twenty-seven essays, all in French, ranging in length from seven to twenty pages, as well as a brief biographical notice and a chronological bibliography listing no fewer than twenty books and two hundred articles by Professor Dubois. The essays cover a rich variety of topics including language, literature, history, politics, philosophy, music, and architecture. Frankly, there don't seem to be any groundbreaking performances here, but there are a number of interesting arguments and ideas advanced in these pages.

The essays are arranged into three sections, of which the first concerns the inscription of historical reality into literary texts from the rhetoriqueurs to d'Aubigne. One common preoccupation of this group of essays is the proximity of history and fiction in Renaissance thought as exemplified by Frank Lestringant's study of the literary formation of Rend de Lucinge, Benedicte Boudou's examination of the insertion of contemporary anecdotes in Henri Estienne's Apologie pour Herodote, and Marcel Tetel's survey of the theme of covering and uncovering in Marguerite de Navarre's Heptameron. The most satisfying piece of scholarship in the first section of the book is Daniel Menager's new interpretation of the Dialogue d'entre le maheustre et le manant, a ligueur pamphlet published anonymously in 1593 and subsequently attributed to Francois Morin de Crome. For Menager, Crome is a Catholic d'Aubigne without the poetry, an intransigent religious fanatic who denounces any form of reconciliation or compromise as a Machi avellian subordination of religion to politics. Menager's concise, informative, and persuasive reading should help to make sense of an enigmatic and misunderstood text.

The next section surveys various aspects of Michel de Montaigne's work, including a conjectured lost work on the Polish reign of Henri d'Anjou, later Henri III, which Catherine Magnien supposes Montaigne to have undertaken and later abandoned based on a passing reference in a seventeenth-century collection of documents. This conjecture leads to some interesting observations on Montaigne's self-assessed aptitude for history writing. Pursuing his interest in Renaissance free thought, Max Gauna carefully demonstrates the resolutely non-Christian conception of death espoused by Montaigne throughout the Essais and in all stages of their development. Also in the same section, Marie-Luce Demonet offers a provocative comparison between Montaigne and Estienne Pasquier based on their varying attitudes to linguistic custom and their varying tolerance of the centrifugal tendencies of language, such as the use of regionalisms, for which Pasquier chastised Montaigne in a famous letter. In this insightful essay, Pasquier's centralist vision and his legislative impulse toward language serve to heighten by contrast the individualism and independence of Montaigne's style.

The third and final section of the book covers a miscellaneous variety of topics which faithfully reflect the breadth if not the depth ofDubois' own scholarship. Here the most remarkable piece is Gerard Defaux's scathing critique of the humanist myth of progress and its nefarious consequences for French literary history. Polemical as ever, and wearing his erudition more lightly than usual, Defaux exposes the Pleiade's offense and denigration of Clement Marot and argues that, in effect, French literary historiography is the dupe of Renaissance propaganda. The point is well taken, though a little severe in regard to Gilbert Gadoffre's generally admirable Revolution culturelle dans la France des humanistes, and Franco Simone arrived at much the same conclusion, albeit less indignantly, in Il Rinascimento francese and elsewhere. It is a good service to criticism, and a fitting homage to Claude-Gilbert Dubois, to remind us of the constant need to reassess the presuppositions of literary history.
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Author:Mac Phail, Eric
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 22, 2003
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