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Scève’s Blasons and the Logic of the Gaze Robert D. Cottrell I N 1535, MAROT, WHO WAS LIVING IN FERRARA, sent his poem “ Le Beau Tétin” to the French court, where it was an immedi­ ate success. Following M arot’s example, other poets began at once to celebrate, or blasonner, various parts of the female body. Scève joined the blasonneurs and wrote a poem in praise of the lady’s eyebrow.1Early in 1536, Marot collected several of the blasons that had been circulating among readers in the courts of Paris, Lyons, and Ferrara, and published them under the title of Blasons anatomiques du corps féminin. Accom­ panying each poem was a woodcut that depicted the part of the body named in the title and evoked in the poem itself.2 Encouraged by the reception accorded “ Le Sourcil,” Scève wrote four more blasons, which were included in subsequent editions of the Blasons anatomiques. In sixteenth-century editions as well as modern editions of the Blasons anatomiques, the poems are arranged so as to trace out the female form from top to bottom, beginning with the hair and moving down to the foot.3 Each blason designates a privileged place on the female body, a station, a locus amcenus, a site ofjouissance. Scève’s five poems, which are separated from each other by the poems of other authors, appear in the following order: “ Le Front,” “ Le Sourcil,” “ La Larme,” “ Le Soupir,” “ La Gorge.” (Scève carefully defines gorge as the neck and just the upper part of the chest.) At first glance, this assortment of female parts may well seem odd. V.-L. Saulnier declares that the parts of the body Scève celebrates are among the purest and the least physical (1:86). Saulnier’s judgment reveals, perhaps, a Neoplatonic cast of mind, for although it is not immediately apparent why the forehead and the eyebrow are inherently purer than, say, the elbow and the ankle, in the Neoplatonic scheme of things what is higher is purer and less physical than what is lower. In any case, the parts Scève praises are all linked to the head. The neck and the upper part of the chest form the column and the base on which the head is situated. The tear and the sigh are not, of course, parts of the body in the same way that the forehead, the eyebrow, and the neck are. How­ ever, through metonymic displacement they stand for two important parts of the head: the eye and the mouth. 68 Su m m e r 1988 C o t t r e l l Most sixteenth-century blasons are descriptive pieces. Scève’s, although they contain descriptive material, unfold in a radically different register. At the signifying center of Scève’s blasons is the experience of the Subject, who, by relating his encounter with the Other, traces the process by which his “ self” was formed. Read through the grid of Lacan’s thought, Scève’s blasons disclose meanings that relate with remarkable precision both to pre-mirror stage fantasies, i.e., those that are produced by the four basic drives (oral, anal, scopic, invocatory) and that take shape around part-objects (objets-petit-a), and to mirror stage fantasies, i.e., those that form around the image of wholeness and total­ ity that the mirror stage Subject appropriates for the image of his own “ self.” 4 The voice that speaks in “ Le Front” is that of the Subject, who declares that the lady’s forehead is a tablet on which love has inscribed its laws: “ Front apparent, affin qu’on peust mieulx lire/Les loix qu’amour voulut en luy escrire.” 5The forehead is a text the Subject reads, looking for signs that will tell him not who the lady is—that does not concern him —but who he is. In addition to being a metaphor for the text, the fore­ head is a synecdoche for the lady’s head, which is described as “ ceste sphere ronde, /Où tout engin [“ understanding” ] et tout scavoir abonde.” The lady, then, is what Lacan calls “ the subject...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1931-0234
Print ISSN
0014-0767
Pages
pp. 68-77
Launched on MUSE
2017-07-05
Open Access
No
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