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ENG 6018
Criticism and Theory I

Class 10: Giraldi, du Bellay, Ronsard, [Mazzoni - optional]

Reading Assignment:

    Giambattista Giraldi, du Bellay, Ronsard, [Note - you are not responsible for Mazzoni]; (NATC 270-299)
    Report: Angela Tartaglia; Response: Jessica Trant

Class Objectives:

  • Analyze excerpts from Giraldi's Discourse on the composition of Romances;
  • Analyze excerpts from du Bellay's Defence and Illustration of the French Language;
  • Analyze excerpts from Ronsard's A Brief on the Art of French Poetry;
  • Discuss Angela Tartaglia's report and Jessica Trant's response.

The writers we are concerned with this week represent the Renaissance urge to break away from old traditions in both the use of the vernacular and in the composition of new forms. At the same time, these writers are deeply indebted to classical theory. As you read, consider how each writer adopts the old to form the new and how this informs the debate between ancients and moderns that (roughly) begins in this era and, frankly, never ends.

Notes and Discussion Questions:

Giambattista Giraldi

Evaluate the opening address to Pigna, the indirect accusation of plagiarism, and the reassertion of the originary student-teacher role. How does this situate the author/speaker?

What are Giraldi's objectives in writing this defence? How successful is he?

What is the effect of defining the romance in terms of Homer and Virgil (273)?

How would Giraldi define the importance of imitating the classical writers?

Examine what Giraldi calls the "civil function" of the poet. In what ways do the modern surpass the ancients in this category?

Giraldi describes what might be the first recorded academic hoax, by Mariano Buonincontro of Palermo. What is the point of this story? How does it relate to the objectives Giraldi sets out?

Joachim Du Bellay

This defense of the French language paradoxically carries messages that French forms of literature are inferior to classical ones. The editor suggests that theorists of this era debated what made language equipped for eloquence. Was it inherent in Greek and Latin, or were all languages potentially equal? How do you think Du Bellay responds to these questions?

Du Bellay and Ronsard participate in a movement to define the modern French literature as distinct from classical precedent. In some ways this type of conflict between the new and young versus the old and past is structural. What promotes this conflict? Examine the psychological, national or cultural, economic or class and literary issues involved.

The editor claims that du Bellay's stance on popular French forms of poetry was also motivated by class concerns. How might this be so?

Examine du Bellay's opening distinction between natural and cultural, plants versus languages. In what ways are linguistic changes the product of culture? What are the implications of his use of plants as a metaphor for language?

Based on du Bellay's arguments, who is he writing against? What positions does he try to debunk?

What's wrong with bad translations? Why does du Bellay believe poetry should not be translated?

Du Bellay advises students to learn poetry by imitating the BEST of ancient and modern poets. What does this advice suggest about his theory of literature and creativity?

What forms of poetry should be avoided, according to du Bellay? What should be imitated?

Pierre de Ronsard

Ronsard's A Brief on the Art of French Poetry belongs to the genre of experienced poet advising new poet, and so may be understood in context with Horace's Ars Poetica or Vinsauf's Poetria Nova. What does this work have in common? How is it marked by its own period and place?

What are the objectives for Ronsard's Brief?

In light of du Bellay's and Ronsard's of views poetic inspiration, what echoes of Plato are present here?

Like du Bellay, Ronsard insists on the morality of poetry. How might this concept of poetry as moral logically follow from medieval theories of creativity?

Ronsard advises wide knowledge of trades and crafts along with many other sciences. Why? How does this compare with earlier theorists?

What authors does Ronsard recommend and why? What does this suggest about the process of canonizing ancient authors in the Renaissance?

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