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  • Hélisenne de Crenne: L'écriture et ses doubles
  • Anne Larsen
Jean-Philippe Beaulieu and Diane Desrosiers-Bonin, eds. Hélisenne de Crenne: L'écriture et ses doubles. Études et essais sur la Renaissance 54. Paris: Honoré Champion Éditeur, 2004. 292 pp. index. bibl. €48. ISBN: 2–7453–1035–6.

The initial impetus for this collection of essays was a colloquium on Hélisenne de Crenne (a penname for Marguerite de Briet) at McGill University in 1998 at [End Page 247] which several of the articles included in this volume were first presented as papers. Following a resurgence in the 1990s of critical editions and translations of Crenne's fictional works, the three-part novel Les Angoysses douloureuses qui procedent d'amours (1538), Les Epistres familieres et invectives (1539), and Le Songe (1540), it seemed expedient to the editors to explore new avenues of inquiry bearing particularly on the structural, rhetorical, and intertextual aspects of these complex works.

Of the fourteen articles included, half focus on the structural dynamics of Crenne's œuvre. Janine Incardona addresses the persistent question of the cohesion of the novel by examining the portraits of the female characters in its three parts: all have a bearing on marriage, relate to the central character of the heroine Hélisenne, and aim at introducing a ludic quality into the text. For Cathleen Bauschatz, the second part of the Angoysses douloureuses is structurally connected to the first through a strategic form of "textual travesty": the narrator Hélisenne's daring ventriloquism in adopting the voice of the unreliable Guenelic leads to the latter's partial "rehabilitation," suggesting a utopian vision of sexual roles in which the travestied female narrator is free to explore male territory in the forms of war, travel, and friendships. Marie Claude Malenfant explores the structural figure of the double throughout the works while Hélisenne as double, at once narrator and protagonist, engages Christine de Buzon to examine the reflexivity and mirror effects at play in the novel. Finally, in this grouping, Crenne's Le Songe is the focus of three articles on its structure. Robert Cottrell, whose essay originally appeared in English in the 1997 collection Women Writers in Pre-Revolutionary France (edited by C. Winn and D. Kuizenga), wonders why Reason in part 3 is made an advocate for Dionysian mysticism. He concludes that Crenne, in seeking to establish her humanist credentials, addressed the theological issues current in the 1530s and 1540s, thereby courting Marguerite de Navarre's patronage. For Diane Desrosiers-Bonin, the "exegetical architecture" of the dream vision consists of the four distinct meanings (the literal, allegorical, moral, and anagogical) applied to texts in the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance: each of these corresponds to a part of the Songe (including the prologue) to underscore Crenne's adoption of a humanist rhetoric of diversitas. Jean-Philippe Beaulieu explores Crenne's privileging of a tripartite structure throughout her œuvre, noting that the third part in each of her works functions as a kind of resolution to the binary oppositions and "stasis" created in the first two parts. He then demonstrates how this emphasis on a tripartite structure, evocative of Pierre Fabri's recommendations in his influential handbook of rhetoric (1521), directs Crenne's œuvre away from the fictional and the relational in the first part of each work toward a more erudite and allegorical discourse in the third part.

A second grouping of articles dwells on particular rhetorical discursive traditions in Crenne's writings. Of great interest is Virginia Krause's analysis of the rhetoric of confession in the Angoysses douloureuses that marks the transition in Renaissance narrative from exemplarity to "intimacy"; this confessional mode, however, is embedded in a religious paradigm that has little to do with the modern [End Page 248] notion of an "intimate journal." For Jerry Nash, Crenne's use of a performative discourse in the Epistres familieres et invectives links the rhetoric of exemplarity to action, hence to a "virile" or masculine use of language. Luc Vaillancourt detects little that likens Crenne's letters to those of Cicero's Ad familiares. His study of the formal rhetorical aspects of the letters argues for...


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