Spring 2020 catalog cover

The Penn Press list for spring 2020 includes hardcover releases, first-time paperbacks, and ebook editions intended for scholars, students, and serious general readers worldwide. Click here to explore our forthcoming books, grouped by subject area.

His Heroes, and Their Worlds

Robert J. Nelson

328 pages | 5 1/4 x 8
Ebook 2016 | ISBN 9781512804751 | 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
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With rare exceptions, English and American views of Corneille derive from that documentary approach that is more interested in a writer's times than in the writer. Perhaps more than any other major French writer, Corneille must be resurrected from the mass of documentation that has accumulated about him in nearly three centuries of criticism.

Dr. Nelson's study, in line with much recent French criticism, concentrates primarily on the canon. The first book in English on this major European dramatist in over fifty years, this fresh return to the plays them­ selves presents a Corneille more varied and more flexible than the sententious figure passed down through decades of inordinate critical emphasis on the famed tetralogy (Le Cid, Horace, Cinna, Polyeucte). Thus, there is not only the familiar genereux of these plays, but also the damoiseau of the early comedies, the ambitieux of the middle plays, and the amoureux of the last plays.

Through rigorous attention to the values of both the hero and the world Corneille creates about him in each of the thirty-two plays, Robert J. Nelson demonstrates in detail what some perceptive critics have hinted at in recent Corneille criticism: that Corneille's vision is not tragic. The drama of "The Father of French Tragedy" is, to be sure, "tragic" in the externals of composition (five acts, alexandrines, the fate of noble figures, etc.), but its essence is something else. What this something else is, and that even in our age of extreme deference to the "tragic vision" it in no way diminishes Corneille's stature, are the final arguments of this original study.

Corneille: His Heroes and Their Worlds will appeal to all those with an interest in French Drama, as well as those studying the application of modern critical techniques to classical authors. Students of theory of tragedy will also find this new look at Corneillian "tragedy" stimulating.

Robert J. Nelson was Professor of French at the University of Illinois, Urbana. His other books include Play Within a Play: The Dramatist's Conception of His Art—Shakespeare to Anouilh.

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