Assessing the relationship between the emergence of modern French literary culture and the ideological debates that marked Renaissance France, Timothy Hampton explores the role of literary form in shaping national identity.The foundational texts of modern French literature were produced during a period of unprecedented struggle over the meaning of community. In the face of religious heresy, political threats from abroad, and new forms of cultural diversity, Renaissance French culture confronted, in new and urgent ways, the question of what it means to be French. Hampton shows how conflicts between different concepts of community were mediated symbolically through the genesis of new literary forms. Hampton's analysis of works by Rabelais, Montaigne, Du Bellay, and Marguerite de Navarre, as well as writings by lesser-kwn poets, pamphleteers, and political philosophers, shows that the vulnerability of France and the instability of French identity were pervasive cultural themes during this period.Contemporary scholarship on nation-building in early modern Europe has emphasized the importance of centralized power and the rise of absolute monarchy. Hampton offers a counterargument, demonstrating that both community and national identity in Renaissance France were defined through a dialogic relationship to that which was t French-to the foreigner, the stranger, the intruder from abroad. He provides both a methodological challenge to traditional cultural history and a new consideration of the role of literature in the definition of the nation.
Timothy Hampton is Professor of French and holds the Bernie H. Williams Chair of Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of Writing from History: The Rhetoric of Exemplarity in Renaissance Literature, Literature and Nation in the Sixteenth Century: Inventing Renaissance France, and Fictions of Embassy: Literature and Diplomacy in Early Modern Europe, all from Cornell.
Winner of Winner of the 2000 Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize.