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Reviews347 the method, five chapters take us from Rabelais's exuberant freedom to Montaigne 's "self-binding" to La Boétie. In the meantime, attention has been paid to Marot, Marguerite de Navarre, Ronsard, Du Bellay, Bodin, and d'Aubigné, as well as to Pulci, Castiglione, Ariosto, and Tasso. The discussion involves such different matters as the esthetics of courdy society and literature, the themes of service and merit, the notion of causality, the relations between royal sovereignty and the self-affirmation of die satirist. The book's richness lies in the varied connections which it establishes between Middle Ages and Renaissance, between literature and philosophy, and between the literary works themselves. In a certain way, this book reminds one of Panofsky's Gothic Architecture and Scholasticism. But whereas the historian of art was careful to bring together philosophical texts and architectural works belonging to the same period and geographical area, Langer appears at first sight to cultivate a paradox, since the philosophical and literary texts he quotes are not contemporaneous and, moreover, the latter are linked to Renaissance humanism, which often despises scholasticism. What Langer wants to show, however, is not a mere mirroring ofphilosophical themes in closely related literary works, but adisplacementwhich, of course, can occur between fields not direcdy related (and even opposed). The thesis is not that Renaissance literature aims at transposing nominalist themes but that, in fact, consciously or not, it transforms them by their application to the writer's fictional world instead ofGod's Creation. This is a question of structural shift and distance, not of influence and proximity; it allows Langer to write that his enterprise is "an attempt to practice a more or less structural history of ideas, with a focus on close readings of literary texts" (p. 23). The book is not a circular construction, content with having demonstrated at the end its initial thesis. The "Epilogue" makes it open-ended by showing briefly that the conception ofpictorial perspective in Brunelleschi and Leonardo involves the same displacement as does Renaissance literature. Painting thus "is a fitting vanishing point for this book" (p. 194), closing it by the suggestion of furdier extensions of the problems which its point of view reveals to the reader. University of GhentFernand Hallyn Giants in Those Days: Folklore, Ancient History, and Nationalism , by Walter Stephens; 446 pp. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1989, $37.50. This is a learned, strongly argued and very rich book. Ostensibly a study of the relationship between the history of giants and the work of Rabelais, Giants 348Philosophy and Literature in Those Days offers an important contribution to the study of Gargantua and Pantagruel. It also touches in fascinating ways on a number of other cultural and literary topics—from the relationship between national consciousness and die representation ofthe other, to the interplay ofnarrative voice and intertext in the discourse of the novel. It should be of value to all students of the early modern period and to anyone interested in the problem of cultural alterity. Because his aim is to offer an historically informed account of the representation of giants, Stephens begins his book by clearing aside the misconceptions that inform most modern discussions of gigantology. He analyzes the work of a number of scholars from the past two centuries who, he argues, have erroneously invented a "positive" image of the folkloric giant. His chief target in this discussion is M. M. Bakhtin, whose famous book on Rabelais and popular culture continues to exercise wide influence. Stephens demonstrates convincingly that Bakhtin's attempt to define the giants ofRabelais as benevolent figures from "folk tradition" is completely inaccurate. To the contrary, he points out that the folkloric giant is traditionally a threat: "The truly archaic Giants of folklore, and their verifiable descendants in civic pageantry, were figures of a terrible and hostile alterity, a menace to 'Us' and domestic culture" (p. 57). Part of his aim in this refutation of Bakhtin is to demonstrate Rabelais's originality in transforming this threatening other into an embodiment of humanist ideals. He thus sheds new light on the relationship between "high" and "low" culture in Rabelais. Following his discussion of the "popular" giant, Stephens turns...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 347-349
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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