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  • L'Épithète et la connivence: Écriture concertée chez les Évangéliques français (1523-1534)
  • Ehsan Ahmed
Isabelle Garnier-Mathez . L'Épithète et la connivence: Écriture concertée chez les Évangéliques français (1523–1534). Travaux d'Humanisme et Renaissance 404. Geneva: Librarie Droz S. A., 2005. 408 pp. index. append. illus. tbls. bibl. CHF 156. ISBN: 2–600–01010–6.

L'Épithète et la connivence begins by stating that the term évangélisme was not born in sixteenth-century France. The first use of it comes in 1740, and only in 1850 does it specifically refer to a belief system. In 1914 Pierre Imbart de la Tour gives the title Evangélisme, 1521–1538, to the third volume of his magisterial Les origines de la Réforme, in which he interprets the movement in a broad, international context. It is a term constructed by historians, whose referent still remains the object of lively scholarly debate.

Infused with the critical vocabulary of ethnomethodology and linguistics, Isabelle Garnier-Mathez's work aims to understand the term through an explication of the language common to certain French writers from 1523 to 1534. She studies the idiolect of a group of writers who shared religious and spiritual convictions different from those of the Faculty of Theology at the University of Paris, but whose doctrine nonetheless predates the drawing of strict confessional lines. Garnier-Mathez conceives of this idiolect as a "langue du village," as a language established by a group with a coherent sociocultural identity. A corpus of twenty works produced during this period by Marguerite de Navarre's circle serves as the basis of the language analyses. It ranges from poetry to prefaces and doctrinal works, all written between Jacques Lefèvre d'Etaples's French translation of the New Testament (1523) and the affaire des placards (1534), and whose readership varied from "simples gens" to "clercs." The corpus includes writings by both known and anonymous authors. Garnier-Mathez's analyses demonstrate how these different texts form a unified body through their linguistic echoes, in particular their use of epithetical adjectives. These words signal a collaboration or "connivence" among diverse writers whose beliefs led them to defy the censures of the Faculty of Theology while founding a community during the reign of Francis I. Garnier-Mathez's illuminating study outlines the evolution of an Evangelical discourse at this time.

She explains that the adjectival substantive évangeliques enters the French [End Page 904] language in 1525 with the translation of Philip Melanchthon's Brief Recueil et principal fondement de la doctrine evangelique, and that it refers then to a distinct group of Christians who return to the primary truths of the Gospels. She studies how the Evangelicals deployed in the decades before the drawing of confessional hard-lines monosyllabic adjectival epithets, like vray, seul, and vif, to distinguish their beliefs from the scholastic heritage and to emphasize the primacy of the Word, the interiority of belief, the exclusivity of one's relation with God, and the salvific nature of faith. The combinations of these adjectives with key nouns generate new expressions of belief. For example, the Fabrist term vive foy appears as an adaptation of the scholastics' fides viva (which for the scholastics was faith primed by charity) and as distinct from Luther's sola fides (justification by faith alone, that is, without the works of charity). For the Evangelicals it signals rather parity or cooperation between faith and charity, so that believers heard simultaneously both Paul and James.

Garnier-Mathez sometimes includes texts written by theologians, in which the authors identify and criticize words used by Evangelicals. These texts demonstrate that during the ten-year period her study covers, authorities recognized Evangelicals by their particular use of adjectival epithets and that these epithets did not constitute a completely opaque or secret language. The theologians' understanding of the Evangelicals adds an important dialogical dimension to Garnier-Mathez's work, and merits further study because it documents the coming-into-being of religious differences in France. These would eventually divide the country.

At times Garnier-Mathez uses the critical language of ethnomethodology and linguistics heavy-handedly, which...


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