Beyond Purgatory

Timothy Chesters

in Ghost Stories in Late Renaissance France

Published in print January 2011 | ISBN: 9780199599806
Published online January 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191723537 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Modern Languages and Literature Monographs

Beyond Purgatory

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This chapter reproaches some Reformation historians with what Amartya Sen might call a ‘solitarist’ approach to ghosts. According to many historians and literary critics, the return of the dead in early modern culture is by default a religious experience, requiring explanation in terms of one's confession. This chapter disputes that view. Four examples are considered in detail. The first embraces the many texts—not all theological—devoted to Samuel's apparition to Saul at the behest of the witch of Endor (I Samuel 28). The second is Pierre Boaistuau's histoires prodigieuses, in which sectarian debate is suspended in order to discuss ghosts as a species of prodigy. The third example is François de Belleforest's continuation of the histoires prodigieuses: central within his ghost narratives is the theme of occult sympathy or friendship. Finally, the chapter closes with an examination of a little-known text by Bénigne Poissenot (1586), in which ghosts are viewed from a stoic perspective.

Keywords: solitarism; Samuel; Saul; Boaistuau; prodigies; d'Aubigné; Belleforest; friendship; Poissenot; stoicism

Chapter.  18775 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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