restricted access Dangerous Truths & Criminal Passions: The Evolution of the French Novel, 1569–1791 by Thomas DiPiero (review)
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Bo o k R ev iew s More that is new is available in the section on poetry. Gérard Defaux relates Clément M arot’s moi to the 16th-century’s general pulsion autobiographique, and to problems of genre and sincerity. Robert D. Cottrell discusses Pernette du Guillet’s “ logic of aggressivity ” with his usual sharp eye for sexual implications. Robert Griffin sets the concept of wisdom which he sees as dominating Du Bellay’s Regrets against a fascinating general back­ ground on sophia. Glyn P. Norton, in the most stimulating piece of this section (with wellchosen illustrations), shows the importance of the interrelated concepts of kairos, occasio and metanoia for Du Bellay’s “ emblematics of regret.” And Gregory de Rocher deals in detail with Ronsard’s dildo sonnet, and its revision by François Rasse des Nœux in order to satirize the nuns of Poissy. The Montaigne articles are varied and thought-provoking. Richard L. Regosin demon­ strates that Montaigne’s “ child of the mind” image illuminates his paradoxical attitude to rhetoric. Lawrence D. Kritzman analyzes Montaigne’s “ fantastic monsters and the con­ struction of gender.” François Rigolot provides a charmingly neat connection between La Boétie (whose verse quoted in III. 13 has a different meaning in its original context) and “ Béotie” (Boeotia, home of Plutarch). Gisèle Mathieu-Castellani meditates on “ crise dans les Essais,” crises of representation, and the dialectic of presence and absence. And André Tournon ends the book with a convincing claim for the importance of Montaigne’s revi­ sions, specifically his changes in punctuation and addition of capital letters; yet more evi­ dence that modern editions seriously misrepresent him. The volume also contains a preface by the editor, a photo of the dedicatee, and a list of his publications. Different readers will have different preferences among these 15 contribu­ tions, but I think all will conclude that Floyd Gray’s discipline, in part thanks to him, is alive and flourishing. B a r b a r a C . B o w e n Vanderbilt University Thomas DiPiero. D a n g e r o u s T r u t h s & C r im in a l P a s s io n s : T h e E v o l u t i o n o f t h e F r e n c h N o v e l, 1569-1791. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1992. Pp. vii + 401. S35. Thomas DiPiero’s Dangerous Truths & Criminal Passions challenges received notions of the novel as a bourgeois art form. Whatever may be true of later French novels, or English novels studied in W att’s classic The Rise o f the Novel, DiPiero finds that the earli­ est French prose fictions “ articulated the French aristocracy’s hegemonic claims to natural ascendancy” (v). Confronted with social and economic challenges from an increasingly absolutist monarchy and the encroachments of a rising middle class, the “ ancient aristoc­ racy’’ responded by ‘‘claiming . . . an abstract and essentialistic notion of virtue and merit” (14). Intended for and the expression of an embattled class, “ the seventeenth century novel engaged in a continual polemic with the discursive configurations of power” (3). DiPiero examines an impressive array of late sixteenth- and seventeenth-century texts, ranging from the well-known (La Princesse de Clèves) to the obscure and nearly forgotten. For his essays on eighteenth-century novels, he has selected fewer but still illuminating texts. While DiPiero’s focus, as the subtitle indicates, is “ The Evolution o f the French Novel, 1569-1791,” his thesis has important ramifications for students of the European novel in general, for novels such as Scudèry’s Artamène ou le Grand Cyrus enjoyed a tremendous vogue outside France. Scholars of other national literatures and comparatists alike will want to examine the relevance, not simply of DiPiero’s thesis, but also of the specific works he examines (both in translation and in imported or pirated originals) for their own fields. Vol. XXXV, No. 2 103 L ’E spr it C r éa te u r DiPiero’s argument will need to be tested and refined in other ways as well...