Winner of the 2022 SCSC Bainton Prize for Reference Works
A Companion to François Rabelais offers the most comprehensive and up-to-date account of the works of François Rabelais, one of the most influential writers of the Western literary tradition. A monk, medical doctor, translator and editor, Rabelais embodies the ideals of Renaissance humanism. His genre-bending fiction combines vast erudition, comic verve, and critical observations of all spheres of contemporary life that are relevant to this day.
Two sections of this volume situate Rabelais’s work in the larger social, political, and literary context of his time. A third section gives concise interpretations of each of the five books of the Pantagrueline Chronicles.
The contributors are eminent scholars of early modern literature. They include: Tom Conley, François Cornilliat, Marie-Luce Demonet, Diane Desrosiers, Mireille Huchon, Elsa Kammerer, Jelle Koopmans, Claude La Charité, Nicolas Le Cadet, Frank Lestringant, Romain Menini, Gérard Milhe Poutingon, Marie-Claire Thomine, Jean-Charles Monferran, John Parkin, Jeff Persels, Anne-Pascale Pouey-Mounou, Michael Randall, Paul J. Smith, and Walter Stephens.
Bernd Renner, Ph.D. (Princeton, 2000) is Professor of French at CUNY (Brooklyn College and The Graduate Center). He has published three books and numerous articles on early modern literature, most notably on Rabelais, on Marot, and on satire.
From the Bainton Prize committee’s report:
“This exemplary reference work provides a comprehensive, clearly structured, and well-written collection of essays that answer convincingly the introduction’s title, “Why Read Rabelais Now?” Indeed, the volume is a celebration of Rabelaisian proportions, conveying a sense of the subject’s wit and playfulness in the essays themselves. Additionally it provides access to the research of key scholars who typically do not write in English. (Marian Rothstein, who translated many of the essays, merits special recognition for her efforts in making this a highly readable work.) The introduction makes a strong case for Rabelais' enduring appeal and contemporary relevance. The three-part structure of the volume facilitates its use as a reference book with Part 1 focusing on many crucial literary and historical contexts (covering topics including – and going beyond – medicine, religion, politics, folklore, theatre, and reception); Part 2 incorporates major readings of each of the five books of the Pantagrueline Chronicles; and Part 3 moves into traditions of print and material culture, satire, humor, and translation. The contributors reflect an open-ended critical approach by stressing newer traditions of polysemy. The essays exemplify the erudition of the authors who write with a light touch and delight in language (their own and Rabelais’), capturing the spirit of Rabelais’ literary achievement and humanist obsessions with language itself. It functions as a literary and cultural history that fully situates Rabelais within the sixteenth century, encouraging readers to (re-)engage with the works of an author who is notoriously obscure if read out of context and often neglected outside of France.”
Prize committee: Amanda Eurich (Western Washington University), Timothy Fehler (Furman University), and Elisabeth Chaghafi (University of Tübingen).
“There really is not a volume of this type available in English, one that covers so many key topics at length. […] This lengthy collection […] contains 21 extremely substantial and comprehensive contributions, each offering coverage of one key element of the Rabelaisian corpus. […] The essays are without exception helpful, broad-based, and deeply scholarly. […] These are 21 scholarly masters at work. The pieces will likely serve beginners new to Rabelais as well as more experienced readers who might want to “brush up” on the texts or to have innumerable elements of a given topic all in one place for easy access. I would imagine that the essays might also serve particularly well graduate students reading Rabelais for the first time. […] A Companion to François Rabelais offers an indispensable collection for use by Anglophone scholars, graduate students, and talented undergraduate students. […] The volume will also undoubtedly help non-specialist instructors teaching the author. […] Excellent volume.”
Todd W. Reeser, University of Pittsburgh. In: Erasmus Studies, Vol. 43, No. 1 (2023), pp. 100–102.
List of Figures Abbreviations of the Most Common Journals Notes on Contributors
Introduction: Why Read Rabelais Now? Bernd Renner
Part 1 Life and Context
1 Rabelais in His Time Mireille Huchon
2 Rabelais and Medicine Claude La Charité
3 Rabelais and Religion Anne-Pascale Pouey-Mounou
4 Rabelais and Politics Michael Randall
5 Greco-Roman Tradition and Reception Romain Menini
6 Rabelais and Eloquence Daniel Ménager (†)
7 Rabelais, Giants, and Folklore Walter Stephens
8 Rabelais and Travel Literature Frank Lestringant
9 Rabelais and Theater Jelle Koopmans
Part 2 The Five Books
10 Pantagruel Jean Charles Monferran and Marie-Claire Thomine
11 The Prequel Gargantua: An Original Reworking of Pantagruel Nicolas Le Cadet
12 The Third Book Diane Desrosiers
13 Interpreting the Fourth Book Paul J. Smith
14 The Fifth and Last Book (1564) Gérard Milhe Poutingon
Part 3 Influence, Impact, and Style
15 At the Foot of the Letter, La Pantagrueline Prognostication Tom Conley
16 Rabelais and Language Marie-Luce Demonet
17 Missing Women: On the Riddle of Gender Relations in Rabelais’s Fiction François Cornilliat
18 Between Laughter and Indignation: Rabelais and Militant Writing Bernd Renner
19 Rabelaisian Humor John Parkin
20 The World in Pantagruel’s Gut Jeff Persels
21 Rabelais (Not) Translated (16th to 21st Centuries) Elsa Kammerer
Bibliography Index nominum
All readers, educated laymen, students of all levels, and researchers interested in early modern European literature, its main traditions and themes as well as its impact on modernity. Keywords: Rabelais, early modern literature, humanism, rhetoric, poetics, reception, translatio studii, philosophy, history, classical heritage, committed writing.