Hybride Hélène : figures du nom et contamination des genres chez Ronsard

in Hybrid Genres / L'Hybridité des genres
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In the 1570s, Ronsard, eclipsed by Desportes’ fame as a writer of love sonnets, was known above all for his epic and scientific poetry, i.e. for works such as the Hymns and the Franciade. In a letter to Monsieur de Sainte-Marthe, Ronsard shows his disdain for “petits et menus fatras come elegies, epigrames et sonnetz,” and in the Preface sur la Franciade, he celebrates the glory of the epic poet. By choosing the name of Helen in Sonnets pour Hélène, Ronsard “imitates” a famous model (Homer) and throws darts at the reputation of Desportes. Ronsard’s primary concern seems to be less Hélène de Surgères than the image her name generates, along with Homer’s epic heroine. In the sonnets, the couple res/verba (Hélène/etymologies), instead of indicating a reassuring duality in which words “reflect” reality, asserts the essential uncertainty (or duplicity) constitutive of lovers’ discourses … and lyric poetry. The rewriting of the myth of Helen, while leading to a form of inter-generic contamination, is yet another way of expressing this ambivalence. Everyone knows the myth of Helen as told by Homer, but Euripides, after Stesichorus, develops in Helen a quite dissimilar version of the myth, a version Ronsard playfully integrates into his sonnets. No love story here: this might be a way to condemn war, raging in France at this time, while celebrating the pleasure of the text. In the end, there cannot be a unified interpretation of this hybrid text.

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