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Reviews235 TL· Rhetoric ofSexuality and tL· Literature oftL· French Renaissance, by Lawrence D. Kritzman; xii & 260 pp. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991, $44.50 By analyzing the symbolic representation of gender identity and sexual difference at the rhetorical and thematic levels, the portrayal of the body, and the dynamics of repression in Pernette du Guillet, Scève, Rabelais, Marot, Marguerite de Navarre, Ronsard, and Montaigne, Kritzman's dense but readable study probes the relationship between psychoanalytic theory and the literature of the French Renaissance. Following Lacan, he attempts to elucidate how the textrepresents intersubjective relations thatdenote the cause and effects of fictions of desire. In order to articulate a voice of her own, Pernette du Guillet, in Rymes, enters into an intertextual dialogue with the neo-petrarchan tradition, frees herself from a paradigm ofsado-masochistic victims ofessentialized gender differences, and creates a discourse of equals based on équité, amytié, mutual respect, autonomy , and spiritual union. Kritzman's analysis ofthe thematization offeminist theory in the tenth rwuvelle of Marguerite de Navarre's Heptaméron is equally persuasive. Here female desire is articulated by non-verbal means and characterized by repression. The heroine, Floride, is caught between her own sexual desire and the exigencies of the society in which she lives. Her entrance into a convent is at once a renunciation, a declaration of autonomy, a refusal to be assimilated to a mode of relations conceived in terms of masculine desire, and a fantasy of empowerment that allows her to be a self-sufficient woman who knows the truthofher passionbutrefuses to divulge it. The chapteron Rabelais's Third Book is less convincing, not because Kritzman is wrong to see Renaissance gynophobic myths trapping men in their own paranoia—that is, after all, Rabelais's point—but because Rondibilis's view and Panurge's view emerge here as that "ofRabelais's text" (pp. 31, 32, 33, 37). Panurge is clearly a fool, however; Rondibilis holds outmoded medical views that Rabelais ridicules; and TL· Third Book, characterized above all by polyphony and the symposiac atmosphere, projects several diverse views of women. Rabelais can only become a whipping boy in feminist circles, as he has been consistently of late, when his text is simplified and his esthetics ignored. "Architecture of the Utopian Body" studies the blasons anatomiques and contreblasons of Marot and Ronsard where we find the dismemberment of the female body and a rhetoric of fragmentation lodged in a catalogue-text that ironically contains the dream ofwholeness. "Fictions ofthe Bodyand the Gender of the Text" provides a close reading of several individual poems of Ronsard's Amours (1552) where the textual unconscious ofthe lover's discourse both affirms and interrogates the sexuality of the desiring male. "The Rhetoric of Dream and the Language ofLove," one of the book's finest chapters, probes the poetry 236Philosophy and Literature of Maurice Scève, the figurative language of dream narratives, and the poet's quest for self-recognition in a struggle between eros and intellect. The book's longest chapter, "Sexuality and the Political Unconscious in Rabelais' [Fourth Book]," by an analysis ofthree key parts (the prologue, the Chiquanous episode, and the Papimania anecdote) depicts the allegorical process, conceived at an intense moment of personal attack and censorship, whereby the narrative transcribes social material in the form of theatrically motivated fictions that stage repressed desires and fears. Finally, three chapters on TL· Essays will be of certain interest to all Montaigne scholars. "Pedagogical Graffiti and the Rhetoric of Conceit" studies "Of the education of children" and defines the author's concept of writing as a cathartic process of separation from idealized figures through which he may liberate himself from his literary forefathers and engender a book of his own. Yet a psychoanalytical reading of Montaigne's "rhetoric ofhumility" depicts his refusal to become an author and assume the position of absolute authority (the place of the Father). His metaphors of consumption (of earlier texts) allegorize the symbolic relationship that he maintains with the absent father, a defense against loss that retains the desired object in another form. The gender of the text is also elucidated as a kind ofbitextuality ("severe douceur'V'severe gentleness") that contains traces...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 235-236
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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