- La Tragédie et ses marges: penser le théâtre sérieux en Europe (XVIe—XVIIe siècles) by Florence d'Artois and Anne Teulade
to explore the edges of a thing allows us to establish our understanding of its existence. This is the motivation for the contributing authors of La Tragédie et ses marges as they probe, question, and expand the edges of tragedy. The main intention of this book is to destabilize the definition of tragedy as it has historically been perceived in early modern Europe. As indicated in the introduction, the variety of approaches creates a cartography of the genre, exploring its uncharted margins and borders, thus questioning the traditional hierarchy between tragedy and comedy and placing tragedy into lively conversation with other historically "lesser" genres such as tragicomedy and the pastoral. Much in the vein of work by Paul Bénichou, Alain Viala, and John Lyons, this volume creates a scholarly perspective that shakes the rigidity that so often exemplifies the neoclassical tragedy of early modern Europe, with its rootedness in Aristotle's Poetics.
As editors of and contributors to this volume, Florence d'Artois and Anne Teulade use their backgrounds in Spanish and comparative literatures, respectively, to create a unique angle in the approach of the book, which includes a variety of scholars from a range of European universities. Almost all the contributing authors have this in common: they originate from or teach a different literature than their country of residence. Because of this cross-cultural lens, their interpretations of primary sources are rich and varied, covering a wide linguistic, academic, and literary perspective. The works explored in this book include selections from Spanish, Italian, German, British, and French literatures. However, it would have been useful to have representatives of non- European universities; there are many specialists from the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, or other regions who could have contributed another angle to the complexities of rigidly defined tragedy. Nonetheless, the variety of [End Page 195] perspectives serves to create a cartography, mapping out how genre was defined through national literatures of similar eras. The biographical information on each author is limited (most likely due to the large number of contributors), but sufficient enough to enable further research for scholars looking to begin a preliminary study in the definition of genre in early modern European theater.
The volume is separated into four main sections, dealing respectively with the subjects of theoretical and non-theoretical approaches, translations and imitations of ancient tragedy, hybridizations of genre, and confrontations between tragedy and its wider cultural context. These are subdivided into chapters, which in turn are each comprised of two to five articles. The first main section (chapters 1–2) provides an overview of theoretical, or academic, treatises versus a non-theoretical, or popular, definition of tragedy in early modern Europe. The articles in chapter 1, written by Florence d'Artois and Enrica Zanin, set the stage for how early modern tragedy was defined, examining its ethical, moral, or aesthetic purpose through the lens of various interpretations of Aristotle's Poetics in Italy and France. Zanin's article in particular examines the contested definition of tragedy in these different milieux. It is during this rebirth of the Poetics' critical authority that we begin to see the rigid crystallization of tragedy, resulting in the more ambiguous forms of theater (such as tragedies with a non-tragic end) being excised or suppressed from the category of tragedy. However, as Zanin's article reveals, there was often pushback (sometimes violent) that responded to this suppression.
Chapter 2, with articles by François Lecercle and Lise Michel, juxtaposes the academic and popular perspective of tragedy. Both articles in this chapter look at definitions of genre: Lecercle's focuses on the ambiguity of the word comédie in seventeenth-century France, and Michel's examines the emergence of the spectator-as-critic to various kinds of tragedy. Lecercle's article in particular introduces two of the main...