- Bossuet à Metz (1652-1659). Les années de formation et leurs prolongements. Actes du Colloque international de Metz (21-22 mai 2004), and: Bossuet. Le Verbe et l'Histoire (1704-2004).Actes du colloque international de Paris et Meaux pour le troisième centenaire de la mort de Bossuet
In 1904, the bicentennial of the death of Jacques Bénigne Bossuet, the "Eagle of Meaux," was lavishly commemorated by the publication of momentous [End Page 152] editions of his correspondence and of his oratory works; a hundred years later, his memory was honored in two major conferences, one in Paris and Meaux, and the other in Metz. The choice of the venues was dictated by Bossuet's career: after studies in Paris, he spent seven years in the northeastern city, returned to the capital as tutor of the Dauphin, later becoming bishop of Meaux, from which city he exerted his influence as "the Oracle of the French Church." As the two symposiums were carefully planned and coordinated, they should be reviewed concurrently; they provide a valuable assessment of the present state of scholarship related to this major historical figure.
The years spent by Bossuet in Metz, a diverse city recently (1648) annexed to the kingdom of France, were for the young cleric "formative years," as most of what came to be considered his personal concerns and contributions took shape at that time. It was there that he developed his talent as a preacher, that he engaged in religious controversy with Protestants, became interested in Judaism, and established the first elements of his political philosophy. These are the four themes developed in the two days of the conference. The Paris symposium was also divided into four parts: Philosophy, History, Theology, and Spirituality, Rhetoric and Literature; the third day, appropriately meeting in Meaux, dealt with the "reception of Bossuet." In all, forty-one scholarly papers were presented, with the expected brief and erudite remarks by the mayor of Meaux, the bishop of the diocese, and the Chancellor of the French Academy.
The first thing that emerges from this collection of engaging papers is that, excepted the dean of Bossuetistes, Thérèse Goyet, an earnest participant in the discussions, and Jacques Le Brun, who wrote their doctoral dissertations respectively on Bossuet and continued to examine other facets of his life and thought, all participants addressed some angle of his rich personality through the prism of their own research. For instance, Joseph Bergin, author of an exhaustive study of the French episcopate, considered him within that particular group ("Bossuet dans l'épiscopat de Louis XIV," Colloque de Paris-Meaux, pp. 105-14), or Jean-Louis Quantin, currently investigating themes in religious controversy, presented a very convincing examination of the theme of communion under one species ("Bossuet et la communion sous une espèce," Colloque de Metz, pp. 163–86). This very valid approach contributed to a better perception of a singular author in the context of his time.
Another conclusion is the present pre-eminence in interest and quality of the literary, especially rhetorical, approach to Bossuet's work; Hélène Michon ("Bossuet: un art de la controverse," Colloque de Metz, pp. 117–32) and Jean-Robert Armogathe ("Bossuet, orateur sacré. La rhétorique de la prétérition," Colloque de Paris-Meaux, pp. 257-69) are the best among an excellent crop.
Does this mean that nothing remains to be done regarding the great man himself? Hardly, as J. Le Brun expounded ("Un siècle de commémoration," Colloque de Paris-Meaux, p. 21): if the quest for...