Dogs' Tales

Representations of Ancient Cynicism in French Renaissance Texts


Author: Hugh Roberts
Sleeping rough, having sex in public and insulting the most powerful men in the world earned the ancient Cynic or ‘dog’ philosophers fame and infamy in antiquity and beyond. This book reveals that French Renaissance texts feature a rich and varied set of responses to the Dogs, including especially Diogenes of Sinope (4th century B.C.), whose life was a subversive performance combining wisdom and wisecracks. Cynicism is a special case in the renewal of interest in ancient philosophy at this time, owing to its transmission through jokes and anecdotes. The Cynics’ curious combination of seduction and sedition goes a long way to account for both the excitement and the tension that they generate in Renaissance texts. Responses to the extreme and deliberately marginal philosophical stance of the Dogs cast light back on the mainstream, revealing cultural attitudes, tensions and uncertainties. Above all, representations of Cynicism constitute a site for the exploration of strange and paradoxical ideas in playful and humorous ways. This is true of both major writers, including Erasmus, Rabelais and Montaigne, and of dozens of other less well-known but fascinating figures. This book will be of interest to students and scholars of intellectual and literary history.

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Hugh Roberts is a Lecturer in French at the University of Exeter.
List of Illustrations Abbreviations and Conventions Acknowledgments Part I Chapter 1. Introduction Chapter 2. Sources of Cynicism in the Renaissance Chapter 3. Cynic Sayings in Vernacular Collections and Emblem Books Chapter 4. Encyclopedias and Miscellanies Conclusion to Part I Part II Chapter 5. Rabelais Chapter 6. Paradox Chapter 7. Cynic Shamelessness and Freedom of Speech Chapter 8. Conclusion Bibliography Index of Names and Terms Illustrations