Critical Tales

Critical Tales
New Studies of the "Heptameron" and Early Modern Culture

Edited by John D. Lyons and Mary B. McKinley

296 pages | 6 x 9
Ebook 2016 | ISBN 9781512804171 | Buy from De Gruyter $79.95 | €69.95 | £70.50
This book is available under special arrangement from our European publishing partner De Gruyter.
An Anniversary Collection volume

Appearing in print for the first time in 1558, the book that we now know as the Heptameron is the work of Marguerite, Queen of Navarre. Left incomplete, but dearly modeled on Boccaccio's Decameron, the Heptameron consists of a frame narrative and seventy-two tales told by five men and five women characters in the shady meadow at Notre Dame de Sarrance.

As John D. Lyons and Mary B. McKinley contend in their introduction to this volume, the tales of the Heptameron portray the conflicts, ruptures, and upheavals that agitated early modern French society. They present a forum in which different elements of Renaissance and Reformation culture meet and, at times, collide. Contradictory suppositions about men and women are easily discerned behind almost all of the stories, and the discussions among the fictional storytellers represent attitudes both feminist and misogynist, masculinist, and misandrous. Less oppositional are the religious conflicts among the storytellers; some are less ardently religious while others are concerned with the corporeal rather than the spiritual.

The stories of the Heptameron are often cautionary tales about the corruption of the late medieval church, about decadent priests and monks, or about the unfortunate faithful whose belief in the efficacy of good works for salvation leads to disaster and death. The conflicts of the Reformation loom over the Heptameron not just as the origin of its ideological tensions but also as a prominent symptom of the larger, related disruptions that marked sixteenth-century Europe.

Provocative and wide-ranging, appealing to specialists in numerous fields, Critical Tales is the first collective volume of studies in English on the Heptameron. The authors—Robert D. Cottrell, Hope Glidden, Marcel Tetel, Donald Stone, Tom Conley, Michel Jeanneret, Cathleen M. Bauschatz, François Cornilliat and Ullrich Langer, Mary B. McKinley, Philippe de Lajarte, Andre Tournon, Daniel Russell, François Rigolot, Paula Sommers, and Edwin M. Duval—present different approaches to Marguerite de Navarre's tales, dealing with such topics as confession, rape, the impact of printing on knowledge and narrative, narrative theory, and androgyny. The contributors to Critical Tales, like the storytellers of the Heptameron, are not afraid to challenge the critical establishment and one another. The book will be of interest to students and scholars of French and comparative literature and women's studies.

John D. Lyons is Professor of French at the University of Virginia, where Mary B. McKinley is Douglas Huntly Gordon Professor of French at the University of Virginia.

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