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Les paraphrases bibliques aux XVIe et XVIIe siecles.

Veronique Ferrer, Anne Mantero, and Michel Jeanneret, eds. Les paraphrases bibliques aux XVIe et XVIIe siecles.

Actes du Colloque de Bordeaux des 22, 23 et 24 septembre 2004. Travaux d'Humanisme et Renaissance 415. Geneva: Librairie Droz S. A., 2006. 492 pp. index. illus. tbls. bibl. [euro]130. ISBN: 2-600-01094-7.

This volume--the result of a conference held in Bordeaux in September 2004 under the aegis of the Centre Montaigne of the University of Bordeaux and the Centre Jacques-Petit of the University of Besancon--contains twenty-three essays, all in French, a number of appendices following certain articles, and a selective bibliography. The essays cover a rich variety of approaches, including theological, liturgical, literary, and musical, to the analysis of biblical texts, and explore the rich context of proliferation of the paraphrase, a form of rewriting that includes exegesis, translation, sermons, imitation, and poetry.

In his introduction to the book, the author of Poesie et tradition biblique au XVIe siecle: Les paraphrases des Psaumes de Marot a Malherbe (1969), a work to which contributors often refer, Michel Jeanneret, instead of attempting to give a reductive definition of the paraphrase, warns the reader not to be repelled by the "frigorific" (frozen) appearance of the text and to reach beyond the simple technical exercise of reformulation corresponding to the practice of the imitatio in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Again, according to Jeanneret, the biblical paraphrase distinguishes itself from the biblical commentary by its combination of the pedagogical objective of the Bible's message--docere--and a more affective goal--delectare, movere--explaining, because of their poetic form and their lyricism, the popularity of the Psalms with the practitioners of the biblical paraphrase--les paraphrastes--during the early modern period.

The essays are arranged in four sections, of which the first concerns the history of the practice of the paraphrase and its function in biblical exegesis. Max Engammare opens with an informative survey covering the practice of the paraphrase in general and in biblical exegesis before Erasmus. He is followed by Guy Bedouelle, who explores the pedagogical role of the paraphrase in Lefevre D'Etaples's work as a biblical translator and commentator. Jean-Francois Cottier, Daniel Menager, and Jean-Claude Margolin consider the work of Erasmus on the paraphrase and as a paraphraste. Noelle Balley closes this section with a contribution dealing with the reception and condemnation leading to censorship of Erasmus's Paraphrasis by the Sorbonne's theologian, Noel Beda.

The next section surveys various aspects of the biblical literary paraphrase, including a "reflexion" on this practice by Christophe Bourgeois. The essays in this second section are mostly concerned by the paraphrase in verse. Michele Mastroianni examines the use of the paraphrase in Chassignet's Le Mepris and Jean Brunel in the poetry of Scevole de Sainte-Marthe. Samuel Junod offers a contribution on the evolution of the figure of the prophet Jeremiah in works of various forms (prose, poetry, and tragedy), and Veronique Ferrer on the poetic paraphrases based on Ecclesiastes. On the side of the prose, Anne Mantero analyzes the works of Antoine Godeau based on the Pauline Epistles.

The third section is concerned with the paraphrases of the Psalms. Jean-Michel de Noailly opens this section with the presentation of the Bibliographie des Psaumes Imprimes en Vers Francais which constitutes an important contribution to the field of the history of the book with its compilation of 3,250 editions, more than 16,800 Psalters, published between 1525 and 1900. One recurrent preoccupation found in this third group of essays is the evolution of the paraphrases of psalms, in the context of the Reformation, from the beginning of the sixteenth century, with Clement Marot, to the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 (Isabelle Garnier-Mathez, Eliane Engelhard, Julien Goeury, Ines Kirschleger). In their essays, Bruno Petey-Girard, Christian Belin, and Stephane Mace offer a view of the Catholic counterpart of the paraphrase of the Psalms.

The fourth and final section of the book covers the subject of the musical paraphrase. Isabelle His and Jean Vignes, who is also the author of a comprehensive conclusion to the book, explore the setting to music of paraphrases of Psalms of Protestant poets: Baif, de la Noue, and d'Aubigne by Claude Le Jeune. Finally, Marc Desmet and Thierry Favier study in technical detail some seventeenth-century attempts on the Catholic side to put the Psalms to music.

Admittedly, the brief paraphrase of this reviewer does not do justice to the individual scholarly work of the contributors or to the richness and diversity of the practice of the biblical paraphrase in the sixteenth and seventeenth century. Although certain sections of the book appear unbalanced, these conference proceedings constitute a coherent whole, contributing to our understanding of the role and importance of biblical paraphrase practice in the early modern text and encouraging further investigations.


University of Massachusetts, Amherst
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Author:Baillargeon, Philippe
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Article Type:Book review
Date:Sep 22, 2007
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