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


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This chapter is devoted to the most compendious volume of ghost narratives printed in early modern Europe, Pierre Le Loyer's Quatre livres des specters (1586). Le Loyer's career and text are reviewed in detail, along with the circumstances of its publication. There follows an in-depth discussion of the word ‘spectre’, a neologism in late Renaissance France. The next section reviews Le Loyer's distinctive contribution regarding ghosts and legal cases, including the question of whether a tenant is entitled to break his contract in the event of his house being haunted. After this comes a discussion of Le Loyer's interest comparative ethnography: drawing especially on contemporaries such as Jean de Léry or Thomas Harriot, Le Loyer finds in Amerindian ghost beliefs a powerful justification for his own. The chapter ends by exploring the immediate reception of Des specters by, among others, the Parisian diarist Pierre de L'Estoile.

Keywords: spectre; Le Loyer; scepticism; law courts; cosmography; Léry; Harriot; New World; L'Estoile

Chapter.  15384 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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