‘Monstrueuses guerres’: Ronsard, Mythology, and the Writing of War

Wes Williams

in Monsters and their Meanings in Early Modern Culture

Published in print May 2011 | ISBN: 9780199577026
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191728662 | DOI:
‘Monstrueuses guerres’: Ronsard, Mythology, and the Writing of War

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This chapter takes the story into the next generation — from the 1550s through to the 1580s — and centres on Ronsard, the poet, writing of love, politics, myth, prophecy, and poetics; and ‘monstrous’ war. It opens with the poet's intimate reworking of the Andromeda story, in which Ronsard-Perseus rescues his beloved from an unspecified but contemporary monster. The chapter then traces a history of the French civil/religious wars — which contemporaries termed ‘monstrueuses’ both for their brutality and because they set the nation against itself — as refracted through Ronsard's poetry. Civil-war monsters roam across genres, confessions, and languages: they inhabit polemical and prophetic poetry, confessional pamphlets and histories, broadsides, and medical treatises. Generating often outlandish meanings, they require a range of heroes to destroy, dissect, or somehow control them (Perseus, Hercules, Nostradamus, Dorat, Thevet, Paré …). Yet, as Ronsard makes clear, civil-war monsters are also — insistently — domestic: intimate, insidious, and personal.

Keywords: Ronsard; mythology; Dorat; Thevet; poetry; prophecy; polemic; heresy; religious conflict; civil war; medicine

Chapter.  23183 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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