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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Witnessing words Testimony and visuality across genres in Agrippa d’Aubigné
by Harmon, Rebecca C., Ph.D., Princeton University, 2010, 161; 3410992
Abstract (Summary)

In sixteenth-century literary studies, early Reformed Protestantism has been characterized as hostile to literary creation and suspicious of images, broadly conceived. As a result, the vivid word pictures throughout the varied oeuvre of Theodore Agrippa d’Aubigné (1552–1630), self-proclaimed Huguenot, have led scholars to read his works as the rants of a religious renegade. However, the recent historical research of Philip Benedict and the theological scholarship of Richard Muller, among others, suggest greater flexibility within that theological tradition and require that we revise our characterization of Reformation-era Protestant culture. In light of this altered historical, cultural, and theological landscape, I offer a rereading of two key features of Aubigné’s literature: ekphrasis and the eyewitness. Although they manifest differently in epic poetry (Les Tragiques), satirical fiction (Les Avantures du Baron de Fæneste), autobiography (Sa vie à ses enfants), and history (Histoire universelle), seeing and testifying consistently construct the reader as a witness in and to the text. The figure of the eyewitness raises questions concerning the reliability of human testimony and the responsibility implied by being a witness. The feature of visuality entails assumptions—at the forefront of the early modern Eucharist debate—regarding the capabilities of language to communicate truth and the transformative power of reading. My analysis therefore highlights the intimate interaction between literature and culture, particularly the visual arts, in the domains of religious conflict and the polemics of minority histories. The comparison across genres reveals a testimonial framework that raises language to the level of seeing and therefore implicates the reader as eyewitnesses across space and time.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Rigolot, Francois
School: Princeton University
School Location: United States -- New Jersey
Source: DAI-A 71/06, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Romance literature
Keywords: Agrippa d'Aubigne, Theodore, Ekphrasis, Image, Religious conflict, Testimony, Witness
Publication Number: 3410992
ISBN: 978-1-124-05116-1
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