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François Rabelais (1493 - 1553)

Related: 1500s - Renaissance - French literature - ribaldry - satire

Connoisseurs: Mikhail Bakhtin

Contemporaries: Pietro Aretino


François Rabelais (ca. 1493 - April 9, 1553) was a Renaissance writer, born in Chinon, Indre-et-Loire, France. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rabelais [Jan 2005]

Rabelais, Aretino and early print culture

But two less noble works did more to popularize print and bring literacy to the masses than the scholarly works. These were Pietro Aretino's Postures (1524) and Francois Rabelais' Gargantua and Pantagruel (1530-40). Of the two, the Postures was the more pornographic in the strict sense, a series of engravings of sexual positions, each with a ribald sonnet. Rabelais' work, on the other hand, instantly entered the canon, where it has remained ever since. His tales of the two courtly giants, Gargantua and his son Pantagruel, the vinous monk Friar John and the reprobate scholar Panurge, are classics of satire and adventure, spoofing every vestige of the Middle Ages from feudal war to scholasticism to law to religion, with hearty doses of sex and scatology. Playful governesses introduce Gargantua to sex; Gargantua's horse pisses an army away; a woman scares the devil away by exposing her vagina; Panurge scatters musk on a fine lady who scorned him, exciting the dogs of Paris to rapine and rut. Both Aretino's and Rabelais' works were censured, but since censure at the time made no distinction between political, religious, and social heresies, one cannot be sure they were banned for smut. What is sure is that both were popular, Aretino remaining the underground porn classic for centuries, Rabelais traveling a somewhat higher road. Rabelais' boast in Gargantua and Pantagruel that "more copies of it have been sold by the printers in two months than there will be of the Bible in nine years" was first, probably true, and second, prescient advice to new media: sex sells. --http://www.law.indiana.edu/fclj/pubs/v49/no1/johnson.html [Jul 2006]

Rabelais and His World (1940) - Mikhail Bakhtin

Rabelais and His World (1940) - Mikhail Bakhtin [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

This is simply the best analysis of the "Carnivalesque" and is a valuable preface to Rabelais' novel itself. Bakhtin's book alerts the reader of Rabelais to his (Rabelais') masterful use of language and explores the sources of medieval popular culture that served his purposes. I have enjoyed Rabelais with much deeper understanding having first read Bakhtin.

Bakhtin and Rabelais both negotiated cultural minefields to produce their works. Both deserve to be more widely read. --thekets via amazon.com

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