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Title: Representations of calumny in late Renaissance French writing
Author: Butterworth, E.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2000
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This dissertation focuses on French discursive prose at the end of the Renaissance (1595-1640). This is a tumultuous period in French history, which re-defines the signification of nation, language, and identity. The uncertain peace after the Wars of Religion makes the climate eager for stability but nevertheless somewhat suspicious and wary. The humanist practice of imitatio - the creation of new texts throughout the imitation of other texts - is interrogated along with concerns of plagiarism, authorial responsibility and attribution: the writing subject and their relationship to the wider community are put into question. Bound up in all of this is a growing and urgent concern - even an obsession - with calumny, injury to reputation. It is on calumny, this growing concern and responses to it in discursive prose, that this dissertation focuses. The reactions to calumny in this period could indeed be classified as obsessive: there is a marked increase in the number and virulence of tracts and treatises devoted to this subject. Calumny is viewed as performative: it is never 'simply' a statement; in the enunciation, something is performed. Consequently, the law required a similarly performative punishment: those found guilty of calumny were forced to recant in public places, before being exiled or, frequently, put to death. I consider the consequences of the vulnerability to language that discourse on calumny reveals. In much writing on calumny, words can indeed inflict harm, and in this way have a very real power. During this period, there is a change in theories of what language is, and how it works; the power of language to model conceptualisation is increasingly emphasised. Calumny poses a real threat to the individual constituted in language and in society: in a very real way, it can endanger, and even destroy, the subject - calumny is frequently figured in the period as murder. The calumniator is often represented as an impostor, an unlocatable and slippery agent; but the victim of calumny, equally, loses their place in their community.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available