- Memory and Community in Sixteenth-Century France eds. by David P. LaGuardia, and Cathy Yandell
This substantial volume brings together both new and leading literary specialists of sixteenth-century France to consider questions of memory and community. They skilfully apply innovative reading strategies to poems, essays, prose works, trial records, letters, and memoirs. There are now strong historiographies attached both to early modern communities, their formation and practices, and to early modern memory cultures and their consequences. Disappointingly, however, the introduction says little about the intellectual impetus for the collection in the context of that wider literature or about this volume's contribution to forging new lines of enquiry. Yet the collection as a whole does contribute. The intellectual quality of the essays is consistently high and they offer many new insights and interpretative techniques that might [End Page 229] fruitfully be applied to further sources. The essays demonstrate the relational authorial subjectivities of writers whose diverse acts of remembering and forgetting were constituted through identities forged in, and responding to, concepts and practices of community.
David LaGuardia's chapter opens the collection with an analysis of the significance of politically-situated memory in epistolary practices, with a case study of texts exchanged, described, and discovered between Catherine de' Medici and Jeanne d'Albret. Brooke Di Lauro explores counterpoints of remembering and forgetting of the beloved in Maurice Scève's Délie, through which the poet constructs his sense of self and his creative process.
Amy C. Graves-Munroe investigates the creation of traumatic sonic geographies through memories of weaponized sound in martyrologies by Bèze, Crespin and Goulart. In exploring Jean de Léry's history of the siege of Sancerre of 1573 and incidents of cannibalism experienced there, Hope Glidden argues that Léry, who had himself experienced the trauma of starvation while returning from Brazil, attempts to reframe anthropophagy neutrally in terms of legal necessity. Kathleen P. Long's focused examination of memory and narrative techniques in Aubigné's history-writing practices demonstrates how he supplemented a highly personal account with the memorial authority of his father's anecdotes. Andrea Frisch continues the focus on Aubigné through analysis of the demands made of readers of his Les Tragiques to be engaged witnesses whose act of remembering kept shocking acts alive and present for subsequent generations.
George Hoffman reads satirical compilations by Bèze and Goulart to explore how these practices of communication transformed Huguenot ideas of a close community to a more abstract, imagined cohort of believers who were connected through shared reading material. Dora Polachek argues for another community forged through literature, assessing Pierre de Brantôme's select remembering of the religious life of Marguerite de Navarre in the Dames illustres, in order to ensure her memory as a pious Catholic.
Nicolas Russell analyses ideas of community in Louis Le Roy's colossal project to document a history of the world, which in practice retained the collective memory of elites whose knowledge was deemed worthy to subsequent generations, and which was safeguarded by a series of sophisticated, active (and activating) mnemonic techniques. Elisabeth Hodges, studying Montaigne, offers a complex interpretation of the writer's distinction between not forgetting and remembering as a corporeal process involving the senses and/in the construction of the self.
Marian Rothstein returns to Louis Le Roy with an analysis of his translation of Plato's Symposium, arguing that processes of selective memory are operative in an attempt to situate the text's meanings appropriately for its intended dedicatees, the dauphin François and his wife, Mary Queen of Scots, so that the pagan text could transmit Christian truths. Cathy Yandell [End Page 230] reprises a focus on cannibalism and meanings of family and community in her study of Jean de Léry's history of his voyage to Brazil, in which he forced readers to compare practices across time and place, from Catholic eating of the Eucharist and the anthropophagy of varied Brazilian...