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  • Powerful Connections: The Poetics of Patronage in the Age of Louis XIII
  • Lewis Seifert
Peter W. Shoemaker . Powerful Connections: The Poetics of Patronage in the Age of Louis XIII. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2007. 291 pp. index. illus. bibl. $60. ISBN: 978–0–87413–993–8.

Studies of patronage in early modern France have often staked out sharply opposed positions. Thus, for instance, where some scholars have stressed the putatively organic harmony between patron and artist (Marc Fumaroli), others have seen self-interest and competition (Sharon Kettering). And while Alain Viala' s influential account takes patronage to be a fundamental obstacle to the creation of a literary field, Christian Jouhaud contends that it actually enhanced the autonomy of writers. In this well-written and compelling study, Peter Shoemaker seeks middle ground between the foregoing positions and offers a multifaceted account of both the rhetoric and the practice of literary patronage during the first half of the seventeenth century. Powerful Connections argues that patronage should be seen as a source of both tension and inspiration for writers, both a challenge and a contribution to their authority. On balance, however, Shoemaker finds that the patron-writer relationship was a productive one, even when —or, more precisely, because —it was contested by writers. Adopting a broader scope than many of the studies on this topic, this book examines an impressively wide range of authors (épistoliers, poets, dramatists, and essayists) and genres (letters, novels, poetry, plays, and conduct manuals). And because it is thoroughly grounded in both literary and social contexts, it demonstrates that patronage has much to tell us about the private/public divide, relations between culture and power, and the very nature of authorial subjectivity in this period.

In the introduction, Shoemaker astutely lays out the stakes for studying patronage and then, in chapter 1, reviews in general terms the ambiguities and paradoxes of the patron-client relationship. Both hierarchical and dynamic, this relationship sometimes provoked frustration in writers but also allowed for a creative dynamism, an ambivalence that is illustrated by case studies of Guez de Balzac and the Abbé de Boisrobert. Shoemaker argues more generally, and against Viala, that patronage helped to create a literary field, separate from institutions of the Ancien Régime. Chapter 2 focuses on Balzac's letters, which elaborate an ideal of the autonomous self that rejects the logic of exchange between patron and client, but without entirely renouncing a vision of eloquence as an intervention in society requiring subservience to the patron. Shoemaker shows how the ambiguity of Balzac's position is at issue in the quarrel surrounding his Lettres, and especially in the attention given to his trademark use of hyperbole. Chapter 3 explores a body of early seventeenth-century poetic texts by Régnier, Sigogne, and Malherbe in which authority and authorship were shared with the patron. For Shoemaker, such texts call for a corporate model of authorship that accounts for the absence of the poet's subjective experience and the emphasis on the virtuosity of language. Chapter 4 then turns to the very different conceptions of patronage found in the work of three libertine writers: the appropriation of the patron's voice (Saint-Amant), the melding of self and patron other (Viau), and the fantasy of authorial autonomy [End Page 898] (Sorel). Chapter 5 takes up the rhetoric of patronage in early seventeenth-century theater, investigating tensions and connections among patrons, actors, writers, and the broader public as they are addressed by Corneille, Mairet, Du Ryer, and the five authors sponsored by Richelieu. Once again, Shoemaker shows that there was anything but uniformity among writers. The final chapter explores two institutions that profoundly transformed aristocratic patronage during the seventeenth century. Arguing that the Académie Française was both a beneficiary of Richelieu's patronage but also an institutional patron in its own right that provided predictability and stability for writers, Shoemaker takes issue with Hélène Merlin-Kajman, who has contended that the Academy functioned outside the realm of power. In the second part of this chapter, Shoemaker proposes, in suggestive albeit schematic fashion, that the rise of a culture of conversation rooted in aristocratic egalitarianism led...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1935-0236
Print ISSN
0034-4338
Pages
pp. 898-899
Launched on MUSE
2008-10-03
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived 2009
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