In this article, some modern theories of humour are applied to the Breton lawyer and writer of prose, Noël Du Fail, who produces in French linguistically rather difficult texts containing tales that he presents as being told about the countryside and its colourful, talkative inhabitants. In the Propos rustiques (1547), the first and most accessible of these works, he reveals himself as a self-conscious humorist. Although he does write (within a complex framework) about discord and fights, employing oppositional humour, he includes in the central chapter (Chapter 7) a narration by the character Pasquier, three major elements of which (the evocation of a character called Thenot, a description of a child's playthings, and a short poem praising the rustic life) can be seen as contributing to a mirroring or mise en abyme of Du Fail's predominantly gentle comic art. Finally, underpinning the chapter and indeed his work as a whole are figurative expressions which reveal that, although he undoubtedly owes much in theme and language to Rabelais, Du Fail deploys many images and figures of speech that are not found in Rabelais and that may well reflect the influence of the region in which he is writing.


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pp. 491-504
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