« The Rediscovery of Epic Writing in France around 1500 » – 17-18 octobre 2019 – Berlin

The Rediscovery of Epic Writing in France around 1500. Negotiating Genre in a European Humanist Context

International Workshop at FU Berlin

17/18 October 2019

Place : Freie Universität Berlin, Habelschwerdter Allee 45, 14195 Berlin
Room : Seminarzentrum, L 116

Organisers : Daniel Melde (dmelde@zedat.fu‐berlin.de) / Sandra Provini (sandra.provini@univ‐rouen.fr)

The French military expeditions against Italy, England, and the Habsburg monarchy during the reigns of Charles VIII, Louis XII, and Francis I inspired a wide number of texts in France that employed the formula of ancient epic poetry in order to portray significant historical events. Pagan gods, epic aristeiai, impressive ekphraseis, and a poetic language based on Virgil and other ancient poets are typical features of these Neo‐Latin or vernacular poems written in France around 1500. Authors such as Jean Marot, Fausto Andrelini, Valerand de La Varanne, or Germain de Brie were poets at the French court and in close contact to important European humanists like Thomas More or Erasmus. The ‘heroic’ poetry (the term ‘epic’ was not in use at the time) that evolved from this sociocultural context appropriated ancient genre traditions. Former researchers have often regarded these poems as mere versified chronicles, the interest and value of which remains largely historical and whose epideictic dimension simply stands in the tradition of the ‘Rhétoriqueurs’, incomparable to the later epic poetry at the time of the Pléiade. In our view, the phenomenon of heroic poetry in early French humanism is much more complex, characterized by fluid genre boundaries between classical epic, epideictic historiography, or panegyric silvae.

The workshop wants to address the issue of heroic poetry in France around 1500 by proposing the following perspectives :
1. What kind of ‘epic strategies’ do the French court poets apply to their texts ? What is the epic formula’s function in the depiction of history ?

2. Which traditions of historical epic poetry are present to the authors (deriving from classical and late antiquity, the Middle Ages or recent literary developments at the rise of Early Modernity) ? To what extent can we conceive the ‘epicization’ of contemporary history as a European humanist phenomenon characterized by multiple transregional entanglements ? A comparative study considering for example the Neo‐Latin Quattrocento epics or the occasional poems in honor of the emperor Charles V seems to be worthwhile for a better understanding of the developments in France.

3. How can we determine the relation between ‘poetry’ and ‘history’ in this specific socio‐historical context ? Which poetological debates, not only in France but also across Europe, play a major role (e.g. Germain de Brie’s Antimorus or Giovanni Pontano’s Actius) ?

4. Are there tendencies of poetical heroization in other genres such as the historiographical chronicle, travel records, or occasional poetry (silvae, odes, etc.) ?


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