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Mannerist Conflict and the Paragone in Ronsard’s Temple de Messeigneurs Roberto E. Campo T O LABEL PIERRE DE RONSARD A MANNERIST is to deny the undeniable: like all genuinely great authors, the leader of the Pléiade group of French Renaissance poets defies all such aca­ demic taxonomies.1 That truth notwithstanding, numerous reputable literary scholars have sought and successfully located many traces of the mannerist aesthetic throughout Ronsard’s poetry. To date, however, most of the effort has centered on purely formal and stylistic characteris­ tics. For example, in his now famous 1966 article on Ronsard’s Elegie à Janet, the ekphrastic masterpiece celebrating an imaginary picture of the poet’s beloved Cassandre by the French mannerist portrait artist, François Clouet, Richard A. Sayce identifies a predilection in this poem for elongated forms and rounded features typical of Clouet’s work and of other paradigms of Renaissance pictorial mannerism.2Likewise, in an essay published four years later on the mannerist elements in Ronsard’s œuvre in general, Marcel Raymond detects structural components that relate, mutatis mutandis, to five formal qualities of plastic mannerism: openness, movement, figurai agglomeration, linearity and idealization. In Ronsard’s poetic terms, these elements become a preference for the themes of change and metamorphosis, a taste for topical abundance, a penchant for narrative disjointedness, and a fondness for descriptive dis­ tortion (Raymond, 69-108). By contrast, rarely have scholars considered the deeper socio-psychological dimension of Ronsard’s mannerism. Although many have written on this matter in other authors and contexts,3few have explored it in the case of Ronsard. Moreover, when they have done so, the results have been disappointing. The investigators have identified no apparent man­ nerist motives underlying the mannerist forms and styles of Ronsard’s poetry. Until now, Claude-Gilbert Dubois has presented the most memorable exploration of this socio-psychological dimension in his landmark book, Le Maniérisme.4 However, while he concedes that poems like the 1567 Elegie to Marie Stuart display the external traits of mannerism identified by Raymond (Dubois, 59-64), and that Ronsard’s work therefore “ ne se Vol. XXXIII, No. 3 9 L ’E sprit C réateur dégagera jamais de l’emprise maniériste,” the eminent seiziémiste also concludes that this œuvre is ultimately “ en marche vers un classicisme” (41-42). Dubois bases this assessment on the nature of the relations between poets and their models—the imitators and the imitated—at the base of all period concepts. In classicism, this relation is essentially assimilatory. The model is an object that the poet deeply reveres and strives to per­ petuate through repeated integrations into his own work. Dubois finds salient examples of this “ attitude classicisante” in Ronsard’s 1578 poems Sur la mort de Marie, as well as among his theoretical statements in the 1565 Abbregé de l’art poétique françois and the 1587 preface to La Franciade (Dubois, 43-49). In the first case, Ronsard not only borrows from his models (the works of Homer, Ovid and Tibullus), but he also propagates them (“ faire fructifier”) in an effort to restore them to the “ circuit vivant de l’art” (Dubois, 46). In the second case, he explicitly bids the aspiring poet to compose “ ‘hardiment des mots à l’imitation des Grecs et Latins’ ” (Abbregé), and to invent “ ‘des mots nouveaux, pourvu qu’ils soient moulés et façonnés sur un patron déjà reçu’ ” C Franciade) (Dubois, 43). Regarding the presence in Ronsard’s poetry of a corresponding “ atti­ tude maniériste,” on the other hand, Dubois maintains a silence that clearly signals his inability to locate any substantial evidence (49-59). In mannerism, the relation is fundamentally conflictual. All true mannerist creation proceeds from a paradoxical principle of “ allégeance subver­ sive” (Dubois, 11) whereby the imitator relates to the imitated as the slave reacts to the master (for Hegel) or as the son responds to the father (for Freud)—that is, with a feeling of intense veneration countervailed by a sentiment of burning defiance: L’imitation maniériste est la résultante d’un conflit: d’un côté, nous avons une déférence hyperbolis...


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