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French Ecocriticism

From the Early Modern Period to the Twenty-First Century


Edited By Daniel A. Finch-Race and Stephanie Posthumus

This book expounds fruitful ways of analysing matters of ecology, environments, nature, and the non-human world in a broad spectrum of material in French. Scholars from Canada, France, Great Britain, Spain, and the United States examine the work of writers and thinkers including Michel de Montaigne, Victor Hugo, Émile Zola, Arthur Rimbaud, Marguerite Yourcenar, Gilbert Simondon, Michel Serres, Michel Houellebecq, and Éric Chevillard. The diverse approaches in the volume signal a common desire to bring together form and content, politics and aesthetics, theory and practice, under the aegis of the environmental humanities.

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Through a Glass Darkly: Dominion and the French Wars of Religion (Jeff Persels)


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Jeff Persels

Through a Glass Darkly: Dominion and the French Wars of Religion

Abstract: This chapter proposes an ecocritical reading of early modern French political and polemical writing via the biblical notion of dominion. The frequent recourse to the conventional, didactic medieval genre of the principum specula [mirrors for princes] throughout the religious ‘troubles’ of the sixteenth century foregrounds and reworks the notion of advising the prince on how to address the associated destruction of infrastructure and economy. Essentially, the ‘good’ prince (Henri IV) is depicted as taking responsibility for conscientious management of the royal domain and French dominions broadly conceived, whereas the ‘bad’ prince (Henri III) is castigated for neglecting the same, and for ceding control to corrupt agents (the Gallican Church; royal favourites). This chapter focusses primarily on ‘late’ additions to principum specula literature, such as the variously attributed 1581 triptych of Le Secret des finances de France, Le Miroir des François and Le Cabinet du roi de France, as well as Jean-Aimé de Chavigny’s 1594 repackaging of Nostradamus’ prophecies, La Premiere Face du Ianus François, and references such classics as the De duodecim abusivis saeculi [On Twelve Forms of Abuse], long attributed to Cyprian. These works, which often take the form of actual books of accounts, however exaggerated – even fabricated – for polemical purposes, undertake to assess the physical state of the realm late in the Wars of Religion. In them can be found early signs of an...

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