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  • Le Poète architecte en France: constructions d’un imaginaire monarchique
Le Poète architecte en France: constructions d’un imaginaire monarchique. By Cynthia Skenazi . ( Études et essais sur la Renaissance, 48). Paris, Champion, 2003. 344 pp. Hb €55.00.

Cynthia Skenazi's exploration of the role of architecture in French Renaissance literature is both a complement to existing work on this topic and a challenge to it. Rejecting what she sees as the essentially literary emphasis of previous studies, Skenazi seeks to focus more consistently on the political function of textual buildings as articulations of a public image of the kingdom. In addition, she emphasizes the often close relationship between such constructions and real buildings. This approach is fruitful insofar as it enables her both to draw attention to the use by successive kings of France of verbal and visual means (most notably actual building projects) to convey their own vision of the state to their contemporaries and posterity, and to trace the attempts by writers, in their dialogue with royal power, to influence this process and, in so doing, to stake a claim for the importance of their own role in the formulation and articulation of images of power. Skenazi's study may therefore be welcomed as a supplement to existing work by Cynthia Brown and David Cowling, which has traced this process back to the writings of the Rhétoriqueurs in the second half of the fifteenth century. Unlike previous scholars, however, Skenazi does not attempt an exhaustive survey of the available material, preferring to analyse a choice of works by Jean Lemaire de Belges, Clément Marot, Gilles Corrozet, Joachim Du Bellay and Pierre de Ronsard; although this decision is sensible in the light of the sheer volume of material and its apparent discontinuity (Skenazi declares on page 22 that a linear history of architectural metaphors in the period would not be feasible), readers seeking a full picture of the [End Page 380] development of textual buildings in the sixteenth century will still need to consult Françoise Joukovsky's La Gloire dans la poésie française et néolatine du XVIe siècle of 1969. Those interested in the development of the fundamental architectural metaphors of the period (the poet as builder, the state as building, the body as building and so on) will similarly wish to go beyond Skenazi's somewhat cursory presentation of the Aristotelian conceptual framework of metaphor. Skenazi's readings of the texts of her corpus are enlightening and often persuasive, and her exploration of the links between vernacular writing and urban planning and royal building projects is valuable. Inevitably, however, attempts to demonstrate specific analogies, such as those between Jean Lemaire's allegorical Temple d'Honneur et de Vertus and Franco-Burgundian funeral art, must remain speculative, especially when the monograph offers no illustrations of contemporary tombs or, indeed, other buildings. A number of other points may similarly leave the reader unconvinced, such as the suggested numerological significance of the fifteen sonnets of Du Bellay's Songe (p. 237) or the claimed link between the artificial memory tradition and Ronsard's Temple des Chastillons, but Skenazi's study, with its stimulating emphasis on the dialogue between French Renaissance poets and the builders of the Louvre and Fontainebleau, is a valuable addition to existing work on this rich and fascinating topic.

David Cowling
Durham University

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