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Of Counselors and Kings: The Three Versions of Pierre Salmon's Dialogues.

Anne D. Hedeman. Of Counselors and Kings: The Three Versions of Pierre Salmon's Dialogues.

Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2001. xvii + 123 pp. + 8 col. and 39 b/w pls. append. bibl. index. $49.95. ISBN: 0-252-02614-4.

Timothy Hampton. Literature and Nation in the Sixteenth Century: Inventing Renaissance France.

Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 2001. xvi + 289 pp. $45. ISBN: 0-8014-3774-1.

Both of these works trace the ways in which the literary and/or artistic work reflects/engages political and social concerns, Hedeman's through the study of various versions of an illuminated fifteenth-century manuscript, Hampton's through the study of moments of encounter with various "others" in the works of major French Renaissance writers. As such, both of these works serve as instances of the interaction of culture and politics.

Hedeman's book extends her early adumbrations of the topic which appeared in the early 1990s. This extension is accomplished with care and fine attention to details of the manuscripts and their editorial history and includes reproductions of many of the illuminations, including eight color plates, and detailed appendices.

Pierre le Fruitier, dit Salmon served as royal secretary to Charles VI of France at a time when disorder and chaos plagued the land (the Hundred Years' War), the Church (the papal schism) and the king's mind (his schizophrenia). Thus, the situation represented quite a challenge to Salmon who took it upon himself to write and supervise the production of several versions or royal presentation copies of a guide book to good kingship, the first in 1409 (BNF 23279), the second in 1412-15 (Geneva ms. 165). Hedeman's thesis attributes the differences in the versions, in the texts and illustrations, to changed political circumstances. She sees the first version as optimistic concerning the cure for the king and Church and as offering the king counsel on ruling wisely. The second version abandons that hope and shifts its concern to the future governors of France. Hedeman also examines a copy of the second version from 1500 (BNF 9610), which again shows signs of its new circumstances. She devotes a chapter to each of these three texts, framed by a preface, an introduction and a conclusion.

The strength of Hedeman's study rests in part on her reliance on the complete, original manuscripts, whereas much previous scholarship has been based on an abridged edition with a different title, Les demandes faites par le roi Charles VI touchant son etat et le gouvernement de sa personne, avec les reponses de Pierre Salmon, son secretaire et familier. Hedeman has rebaptized the text Les Dialogues as the dialogue is the overriding form of both versions of Salmon's text. This new title is certainly less cumbersome and it does allow for the greater flexibility of treatment which Hedeman finds in the different versions.

And, befitting her own situation as an Associate Professor of Art History, Hedeman gives especial attention to the role of visual elements, such as the illuminations (figures represented, their placement, etc.), rubrics, historiated initials, underlining, use of color in the changing emphases of the various versions. Thus, the illustrations in parts 1 and 2 of version one emphasize royal dignity. The images illustrating part 3 of this version stress the opposition between good and bad counselors, as represented, respectively, by Richard II of England, Charles's son-in-law, and Louis d'Orleans, his brother, both already deceased at the time of the text, whereas the text presents the individuals as victims of fortune. The illuminations thus highlight the Burgundian line and the importance of Jean sans Peur, Duke of Burgundy. The visual elements, some of which add emphases not in the text and others which seem to more clearly illustrate it, appear to highlight the goal of Charles VI's cure, to establish him as a "roi tres chretien," protector of a unified Catholic Church with the help of the duke of Burgundy.

In the second version pictures are relied on less to communicate the message and serve rather as complements, concrete embodiments of the more abstract ideas present in the text. The revision tones down the Burgundian line and eliminates reference to the papal schism. As a result, another theme, the division among the Princes of the Blood (civil war had broken out in 1410) becomes primary. The war and the need for continuity of government are stressed. The images are more realistic and have greater interaction with the text and underline Salmon's role as a model for conversion.

A later copy of the second version from 1500 extends the life of the text by suppressing royal and ducal emblems tied to a specific historical moment. Only the most universal emblem, the fleur de lys, remains. Salmon appears as a loyal adviser to a king. Marginal annotations reflect concerns at court regarding justice and good and bad rulership and visual updates in costume help to make the text appropriate for the patron of the manuscript, Francois de Rochechouart, and his relationship to the then current French king, Louis XII.

Hedeman's thesis of the interlocking relationship of illuminated manuscript and politics is convincing. It is aided by the embeddedness in politics of the particular genre of advice literature, a popular genre of the time and a forum for political discussion/theory, as well as by the political/social status of both producer and receiver of the book.

Hampton sets himself a more difficult challenge regarding the question of the intersection of politics and culture, as he chooses to study in the main various literary genres associated with imaginative fiction. Hampton's book is composed of a series of close readings of encounters with other nations/cultures in major works of such key French Renaissance writers as Rabelais, Marguerite de Navarre, Joachim du Bellay, and Montaigne and focuses on the consequences of such encounters for the representation of community and for the relationship of literary form to national identity. Three of the six chapters have appeared in an earlier form as articles.

While the readings are interesting and should prove so to scholars and teachers of these texts, the overarching thesis of the "genesis of literary forms" as provoked by such encounters in the struggle to define the French nation (as political identity, national space, language, national character) is less convincing. This claim seems to be at once too broad and too narrow an explanation for literary change/evolution. Are novelistic forms the product of the development of modern nation-states? What about Petronius? Is the absolute monarchy generative of neoclassical tragedy? What about other forms, such as the epistolary form? What about moments of conflict or tension within these forms? The "novel" is a questionable genre to depict national "unity" if it is seen as essentially self-critical, and the self-conscious fictionality Hampton finds in certain texts hardly "resolves" tensions, as he claims, as it is inherently unstable and raises questions for the identity of its self and of the nation it supposedly reflects.

Indeed, Hampton himself is forced to admit qualifiers such as "although there may be other examples of and explanations of generic hybridity" (30) in addition to changed political and social circumstances or the difficulty of a "strict" allegorical reading of Rabelais as political fable or theological tract (108) or the following in his discussion of Montaigne: "This is not to say, of course, that the form of the essay is somehow 'essentially' linked to the discovery of the New World. Certainly, the displacement of history writing by essay seen here is replayed throughout Montaigne's text with dizzying variety and complexity as many different discursive traditions are split and reconfigured" (224).

It is more appropriate, as Hampton seems to come to realize near the end of his book, to make the much more modest claim that the moments of conflict or encounter seem especially propitious for the study of generic modification or manipulation. Part of the difficulty is due to the conflicted nature of the concept of genre itself as an abstraction of many different examples and, sometimes, as a byproduct of subsequent parody, which creates retroactively a certain schema of the genre mocked. The same might be said of the notion of representation, which involves a contradiction or several within itself, and, which, it may be argued, is active in works of literature and/or readings of writings from many different epochs, thus, making the link between only one set of specific political circumstances and "literature" or "representation" as such a bit questionable. And, certainly, there are inherited topoi that reflect such conflict, for example, those of the elegiac tradition critical of the ethos of epic conquest.

What Hampton does well in this articulation of politics and culture is to place his discussions within the context of available topoi in textual production (discursive practices or commonplaces of the time, some relating to political, moral, religious issues such as the debates on the European response to the Turkish question or the tension between charitable action and political expediency), in a variety of what would today be different fields as well as different genres: politics, moral philosophy, travel accounts, lyric poetry and its traditions, epic and romance narratives, novella.

Ultimately, then, both works contribute to the question of/reflection on the implications for political ideology (questions of identity, community and strategies of interpretation to produce meaning or social order) of the manipulation of the image or of topoi as part of the activity involved in the production of artifacts in the form of illuminated manuscripts or written texts. We might then subtitle or rebaptize them as Et quand le roi serait fou? or, in the second instance, Playing with the (notion of the) nation with due weight given to the openendedness of literary and artistic productivity/instability and its interpretation.


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Title Annotation:Reviews
Author:Ancekewicz, Elaine M.
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 22, 2004
Previous Article:Poesie et Renaissance.
Next Article:Noel du Fail: Conteur.

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