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Reading Boileau

An Integrative Study of the Early "Satires"

by Robert Corum

Publication Year: 1998

n French literary history Nicolas Boileau (1636-17'1) has enjoyed legendary status as the great codifier of French classicism, the discerning critic who could demolish or elevate several generations of French poets. This view of Boileau's role has lead to an emphasis on his poetics, not his poems, which in turn has generated general disdain for his poetic art. Robert Corum dispels these misconceptions about Boileau by focusing rigorous critical attention on Boileau's first nine Satires and the accompanying "Discours au toy," 11 composed between 1657 and 1668. His reading takes into account a number of factors, including sources, genesis, relation to one another, coherence, and continuity of argument. This examination reveals Boileau to be a gifted poet, not just a talented versifier or a strait-laced mouthpiece for French classical doctrine.

Published by: Purdue University Press

Series: Purdue Studies in Romance Literatures


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pp. v


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pp. 1-7

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Chapter One - The Discours au Roy: Conflicted Beginnings

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pp. 8-17

A sequential reading of the Satires compels us to give special consideration to the collection's initial poem, the Discours au Roy. Its crucial opening position generates and determines the reader's expectations concerning the body of poems that follow. After placing the poem between Satires V and VI ...

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Chapter Two - Two Poetic Paradigms

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pp. 18-34

While in the Discours au Roy the speaker suggested a network of flattering analogies between himself and the ostensible object of the poem, Satire I shifts to a different kind of character altogether, the poetic failure Damon. Syntactic parallelism in vv. 1-4 of each poem reinforces the dialectical relationship ...

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Chapter Three - Nourishing Literature: "De gustibus ... est disputandum"

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pp. 35-49

From Satires II to III the focus shifts from the writer's domain—the conscientious speaker's tribulations in finding the right rhyme in his quest for poetic distinction—to that of his audience. Satire Ill's burlesque account of a repas ridicule in fact explores the problem of aesthetic insensitivity in ...

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Chapter Four - Reason, Nobility, and the Pursuit of Happiness

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pp. 50-70

We cannot conclude that the speaker's consistent silence during the wretched dining experience in Satire III is absolute, since the invective contained in the third Satire itself corroborates the systematic degradation. of taste and reason in contemporary society. Boileau's savage frontal assault on the forces ...

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Chapter Five - Looking for Lodging

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pp. 71-101

While Satire V focuses on the domain of the aristocrat, la Cour, the following poem shifts our attention to la Ville.1 Although presided over by the godlike, exemplary King, the court is a perilous environment, full of fraudulent nobles who defile the glorious tradition of France's distinguished families. ...

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Chapter Six - Withdrawal

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pp. 102-117

The playful tone of the speaker/donkey's reductive pronouncement at the close of Satire VIII brusquely shifts in the following poem. Like Satire VII, an internal debate between two elemental voices in the speaker's aesthetic psyche, Satire IX is reiterative, operating as a comprehensive conclusion ...

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pp. 118-128

The overriding presence and personality of the speaker dominate the early Satires. At every bend in this multifaceted construct the reader encounters this creative figure, underpinning and thus reinforcing the intertextual connections predicated on theme, image, causality, logic, tonality, syntax, and association. ...


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pp. 129-158

Works Consulted

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pp. 159-166


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pp. 167-170

E-ISBN-13: 9781612490878
E-ISBN-10: 1612490875
Print-ISBN-13: 9781557531100
Print-ISBN-10: 1557531102

Page Count: 176
Publication Year: 1998

Series Title: Purdue Studies in Romance Literatures