Early Modern French Autobiography


This book offers a survey of the constitution of the French memoir tradition, and explores in detail the works of four representative authors: Philippe de Commynes, Louise de Savoie, Philippe de Cheverny, and François de Bassompierre. Works of self-writing were usually printed under the title of “memoirs” and have been often considered a uniform genre. These early forms of self-writing were in fact highly heterogenous works at the crossroads of multiple genres, from the account book to the astrological diary. Their writing, printing, and circulation challenge modern notions of autobiographical genres: their authorship is often questionable and collective, and they tended to be compiled in large collections for political ends, without regard to the authors’ intention.

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Nicolae Alexandru Virastau holds a Ph.D. (2015) in French and Romance Philology from Columbia University. He has published articles in the history of French autobiography, literature, and science.

1 The Memoir Tradition
 1 The First Readers of Memoirs
 2 Testimony and Rhetoric
 3 Compilation-Memoirs
 4 Collections of Memoirs and Collective Memory

2 Philippe de Commynes (1447–1511) and His Memoirs
 1 Models and Competing Genres
 2 Courtly Autobiography
 3 Commynes as Historian and Political Thinker
 4 Commynes’s Modernity

3 Louise de Savoie (1476–1531) and Her Diary
 1 From Notes to Diary
 2 Contents of the Diary
 3 François De Moulins and His Role in Making Louise’s Diary
 4 Jean Thenaud and Christian Astrology at the French Court
 5 Failed Predictions and Uncertainties
 6 Making Sense

4 Philippe Hurault de Cheverny (1528–1599) and His State Memoirs
 1 Cheverny and His Printed Memoirs
 2 Cheverny’s Personal Papers and Manuscripts
 3 Network, Editors, and Possible Motivation

5 François de Bassompierre (1579–1643) and the Diary of His Life
 1 The Purpose and Genre of Bassompierre’s Diary
 2 The Diary
 3 Bassompierre’s Other Works
 4 From Autobiography to Literature

All interested in the history of early modern French literature and culture, as well as the history of autobiographical writing in Europe.
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