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Paul J. Smith

This essay studies the two sixteenth-century translations of Erasmus’ Praise of Folly: the anonymous De la Declamation des louenges de follie, printed in 1520, and Jean Thenaud’s translation of 1517, which survived in three manuscripts intended for the royal family. It examines their translation practices and use of sources, and it addresses questions of (co-)authorship, such as the possible identification of Georges Haloin as the translator of the Declamation and the role of François Rabelais in his friend Thenaud’s translation. Furthermore, this essay pays particular attention to the illustrations that appear in the printed editions of the 1520 translation, which were copied from the French editions of Sebastian Brant’s Ship of Fools.

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Folly Goes French

The French Translations of the Praise of Folly in the 17th and 18th Centuries

Paul J. Smith

The early-modern French translations of Erasmus’ Praise of Folly show an astonishing adaptability to its ever changing readerships. Much attention has been paid recently to the two sixteenth-century translations (1518 and 1520) and their intended readers—royal and bourgeois respectively. The three French translations of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries are less known but all the more intriguing. In 1642 Folly addresses herself to the French pre-classicist readers, adepts of Richelieu’s new Académie Française—although her translator, Hélie Poirier, was a Protestant refugee, recently settled in the Netherlands. In 1671 Folly seeks her readers in the Parisian salons, satirizing the same societal wrongs as her great contemporary Molière in Tartuffe and Les femmes savantes. The successful translation by Nicolas Gueudeville (22 editions from 1713 onward) is also a chameleon: originally translated and printed in Leiden, the text gradually becomes more Parisian with each passing edition. Folly’s language is bowdlerized according to the principles of bienséance, and Vianen’s illustrations, based on Holbein, are discarded as rude and old-fashioned. In 1751 they are replaced by Charles Eisen’s elegant, long-limbed, periwigged figures, dressed to the latest fashion. Although she changes her name (Moria/Stultitia—Dame Sottise—Dame Folie), her language (from humanist Latin to Parisian French), her appearance and attire (from Holbein to Eisen), Folly remains much the same through the ages—everlasting and omnipresent, just as the vices she laughs at.

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Paul J. Smith

Drawing on the classical concept of rhetorical dispositio, this study gives new interpretations of a number of literary texts of the French Renaissance, some of them well-known (by Rabelais, Du Bellay and Montaigne), others less-known (the Pierres précieuses by Remy Belleau and the anonymous collections of emblematic fables). All these texts are organized according to an often problematic and disruptive dispositio that dissociates itself from the prescribed and preexisting models. This study not only seeks to approach the problem of literary ordering from a historical and theoretical perspective, it also intends to frame this topic in a more general context: grotesque bodiliness in Rabelais’s novels; historiography, gender and travelogue in Montaigne’s Essays; imitation and intermediality in the case of the poets and the fabulists.